No one today denies the importance of satellite location and navigation systems - and their strategic importance in particular. The United States understood this long ago and developed an efficient system, the GPS or Global Positioning System, which is the world leader in the field by some distance. Other powers (Russia, China and Europe) have followed this lead in recent years. The European Union began to take interest in the question in the late 1990s, but the project named Galileo was not officially launched (with the appropriate structure and funding) until 2002. Beyond the technical and industrial aspects of the project, the aim is to possess genuine independence in the area of satellite location and navigation, as André Lebeau showed in this publication in February 2004.
Despite this declared ambition, the development of the Galileo programme has run up against many obstacles in the interim, particularly of a political and institutional kind, and these are described for us here by Didier Faivre, a specialist in this field within the European Space Agency. It was not until late 2007 that the European project was given the final go-ahead and concrete decisions were taken, both at the financial and programmatic levels. This article analyses the recent developments that have produced this second wind for Galileo, at the same time recalling the many related issues.