GPS Versus Galileo – A Comparison Between the Two

There was a time when people didn’t know if earth was round! They were under the misconception that if they travelled too long, they might come to the end of the world and fall into nothingness! Later we found that earth is round and there are other ‘continents’ and different people. Now anyone could be found anywhere, thanks to satellite navigation systems.  This article compares GPS vs Galileo so you can get a better understanding of what each one offers.

Currently, two satellite navigation systems are available: the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Federation’s Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System, which is popularly known as GLONASS. These global systems make use of satellites to map areas and are extremely useful for companies and governments. They have become so advanced they can pinpoint the location of a particular person and watch him in real time! From finding individuals to offering early tsunami warnings, these satellite navigators have multiple uses.

Comparing the Different Satellite Navigation Orbits

Comparing the Different Satellite Navigation Orbits

Global Positioning System (GPS)

GPS is a navigational system offering information under any weather condition from any area that falls within its range, from anywhere in and near the earth.  This project was developed in the year 1973 to break the restrictions and challenges the previous systems faced. It was initially run with the help of twenty-four satellites and became completely operational in the year 1994. The system has been modernized and developed since then.

GPS’s design is primarily based on land-based navigation systems like Decca Navigator and LORAN, developed during the Second World War period. In 1960, the first successful navigator, named Transit, was experimented on by the United Nations’ navy. It was able to provide a navigation fix of roughly once an hour and was comprised of five satellites.

The GPS Global Positioning Network of Satellites

The Timation satellite in 1967 was the first to implement clocks in space. After tweaking and learning from its predecessors, the Omega Navigation System became the first official global radio navigation system, during the next decade.

The Global Positioning System is owned by the Government of the United States and stewarded by the Department of Defense. Successful mobile GPS tests were done in 2004 and a modernized satellite navigation system was launched in the year 2005. It has become a handy tool for people around the world.


Galileo is a satellite navigational system that is being jointly built by the European Space Agency and the European Union. It is a multi-billion-dollar project and is named after the Galileo, the world-renowned astronomer.

The main aim for building this satellite navigational system is for European nations to independently rely on a positioning system of high precision without the help of GPS or GLONASS, which could be immobilized during wars. It will have two main operational centers: one in Italy and the other in Germany.

Two operational satellites were initiated to check on the authenticity of the system in the year 2011. Twenty-seven operational satellites, plus three active spares are expected to launch by 2019. Interestingly, the satellites are named after the children who won the Galileo drawing competition conducted by the European Commission. The satellites are named Thijis and Natalia, the first two winners. The other satellites, once launched in 2019, will be named after the winners from 25 states.

Galileo Test Satellite in Orbit

Galileo is going to be free for basic navigation and the premium navigation option will incur a charge. When Galileo gets launched, it certainly will be a better high latitude satellite navigator than the other available systems. Galileo will also offer a novel SAR function (Search and Rescue). This satellite navigational system is going to be available to everyone and the high-precision functions will be available for companies and the military.

It is too early to compare GPS and Galileo. I feel that Galileo might be a more technologically-advanced satellite navigation system than GPS if launched successfully.

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