Galileo’s fate remains uncertain; NOAA/NGS reaches centimeter-level GPS orbit precision; Study finds Louisiana sinking into Gulf; USGS releases new maps for Great Salt lake; USGS releases TerraLook; HOYA and PENTAX announce merger; and FIG announces new council and office location.

Since EU approval for the Galileo project was awarded in 2005, work on the system has been delayed due to disagreements among the participants over who will lead the program. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Galileo's Fate Remains Uncertain

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Union’s Galileo satellite system project has been stalled due to disagreement among project participants, particularly Britain’s Inmarsat, France’s Thales Group and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Center. These participants have been in dispute about program leadership and how to divide the project among their respective industries.

Since the consortium building the Galileo satellite system was formed in 2005, the project has been overwhelmed with problems. Galileo, exhibited as a rival to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), was planned to have around 30 satellites and be running commercially by 2010. The first satellite, which was supposed to be launched two years ago, remains grounded, and four more satellites scheduled to be in orbit by 2009 are likely to be delayed. Last year, Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of ESA, instigated three separate inquiries about the delays caused by Europe’s biggest aerospace hardware manufacturers failing to agree on sharing the work.

In January, the ESA finally demanded that the eight aerospace and manufacturing companies involved in the project resolve the fighting that has caused the Galileo project to delay. According to Dordain, unless the participants agree on how to divide their work, the ESA will be forced to suspend all work on the Galileo project.

NOAA/NGS Reaches Centimeter-level GPS Orbit Precision

In January 2007, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Geodetic Survey (NOAA/NGS), a contributing Analysis Center within the International GNSS Service (IGS), attained a new level of precision for the daily GPS satellite ephemerides (orbits) that support high-accuracy positioning applications. The satellite orbits are generated using data from a global network of more than 150 tracking stations and released within 17 hours after midnight. The IGS combines the NOAA/NGS-generated orbits with those produced by several other Analysis Centers to provide a highly reliable product.

According to Dr. Jim Ray of NOAA/NGS, numerous model upgrades and strategy changes introduced into the NOAA/NGS GPS data analysis process have reduced the RMS orbit errors down to about 2 cm.

“The general improvements made in the past couple of years can be attributed to the combination of many upgrades,” Ray says. “All IGS Analysis Centers now use processing strategies with very high success rates in resolving double-differenced carrier phase ambiguities. The well-distributed IGS global tracking network, now including 132 reliable sites in the recently adopted IGS05 reference frame, is indispensable.”

A recent scientific study reports that a lateral movement of Louisiana's land into the Gulf of Mexico enters unstudied territory. Image courtesy of Liam Gumley, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the MODIS science team.

Study Finds Louisiana Sinking Into Gulf

A recent scientific study on Louisiana’s sinking coast revealed that the state is gradually sliding into the Gulf of Mexico. The report, which first appeared in December’s Geophysical Research Letters, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Geophysical Union, reports that the foundation under southeast Louisiana is breaking away at a glacial speed. The report was based on information collected between 1995 and 2006 from GPS stations installed to study the nature of the Mississippi delta. The report also notes that while researchers have known that the swampy land under southern Louisiana has been sinking for years, a lateral movement of the land into the Gulf of Mexico enters unstudied territory.

This scientific report comes at a time when Louisiana is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, and may threaten the rebuilding of the levees. According to a report from the Associated Press, if the land is shifting--even slightly--engineers may need to take this into consideration when rebuilding the levees and creating lines across the coast to identify areas that should and should not be protected.

Although scientists and engineers should take this data into consideration when rebuilding Louisiana’s levees (and surveyors when resurveying this area’s land), researchers advise the public not to be afraid that the state is going to fall into the gulf. The process is unfolding so slowly, researchers say, that last year the southern part of the state moved only about the width of two credit cards.

New bathymetric maps released by USGS are the first to detail the Great Salt Lake’s low-lying fault-controlled ridge separating the lake into two individual basins.

USGS Releases New Maps for Great Salt Lake

On Jan. 8, 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, released the first detailed maps defining the bottom surface of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. According to Rob Baskin, supervisory hydrologist for USGS, the two new maps offer new information about the physical shape of the lake. The maps also provide insight on the salt and contaminants transported in the lake, the lake’s chemistry and geologic history, and ecological implications of water depth and volume.

“This is the first time a systematic survey has been completed on the lake,” Baskin says. Previous maps of the lake failed to depict the two individual basins that make up the Great Salt Lake. These new maps are the first to detail the Great Salt Lake’s low-lying fault-controlled ridge that separates the two basins into northern and southern regions. In recent years, the ridge has been submerged under water and, subsequently, was never shown in detail on maps. These new bathymetric maps now portray the deepest part of the lake, the north basin, at an altitude of about 4,167 feet, or about 30 feet below the current lake surface.

Baskin began development of the maps in 2002, completing them in late 2006. To define the bathymetry of the lake, Baskin collected approximately 12.8 million depth measurements along more than 1,695 miles of survey transects across the lake. To obtain the measurements, Baskin used a high-definition fathometer, real-time differential GPS and depth-discrete sound-velocity corrections. Efforts are now underway to use this new data for lake circulation modeling and chemical transport, and to better the relation between the bathymetry of the lake and its biological and ecological components.

To view digital copies of the Great Salt Lake bathymetric maps, visit

The USGS TerraLook data product provides general historical images and context from the early 1970s to present day for a particular area.

USGS Releases TerraLook

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS), in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), released TerraLook, a collection of JPEG images created from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center and Landsat orthorectified images of the USGS EROS archive.

The new data product provides general historical images and context from the early 1970s to the present day for a particular area. The images are focused on Landsat and ASTER satellite images, which have provided global coverage since that time. The planimetric RMSE of the images ranges from 50 to 100 meters, depending on the date and sensor. The TerraLook images are geo-registered for use in geographic information systems, and are user-selected, simulated natural color bundled with footprints of the images and standards-compliant metadata that describe the collection. Each collection is delivered as a single zipped file.

HOYA and PENTAX Announce Merger

HOYA Corporation (HOYA), Toyko, announced plans to merge with PENTAX Corporation, Toyko. The new company is to be named HOYA PENTAX HD Corporation. The merger is expected to be complete on October 1 of this year.

The surveying division of PENTAX is planning to enter a new segment of the surveying market by launching new products later this year. The expansion of the surveying division’s product range will increase its future growth perspective.

FIG Announces New Council and Office Location

The new International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Council began its term of office on Jan. 1, 2007. The Council is made up of five full members who serve for three years (from 2007 to 2010), and one Advisory Committee of Commission Officer (ACCO) representative who serves for one year. The 2007 Council consists of President Prof. Stig Enemark (Denmark); Vice President Dr. Dalal S. Alnaggar (Egypt); Vice President Prof. Paul van der Molen (Netherlands); Vice President Ken Allred (Canada); Vice President Matthew Higgins (Australia); and ACCO Representative Dr. Chryssy Potsiou (Greece).

On Jan. 4, 2007, FIG also relocated its home office in Denmark. The new address is: Kalvebod Brygge 31-33, DK-1780 Copenhagen V, Denmark. For more information,


On page 12 of Newsline in our February issue, our report on GLONASS may have been confusing to some readers. To clarify, the announced improvements to the GLONASS satellite system will be available to Russian domestic consumers for military and civilian purposes by the end of 2007.

The Russian News and Information Agency, Novosti, reported that: “President Vladimir Putin ordered in December 2005 that the system be ready by 2008 and in March this year [Deputy Prime Minister Sergei] Ivanov said GLONASS will be available to domestic consumers for military as well [as] for civilian purposes by the end of 2007. [Russian Space Agency Head Anatoly] Perminov said earlier Russia is in talks with the United States and the European Space Agency to prepare agreements on the use of GLONASS jointly with GPS and Galileo satellite navigation systems.” (Source found at The GPS Daily reported similar information in December 2006 and January 2007.

The Novosti article also reported that: “In November Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia will lift all precision restrictions, from the start of 2007, in the use of GLONASS to enable accurate and unlimited commercial use of the military-controlled global positioning system. Current restrictions limit the accuracy for civilian users of GLONASS to 30 meters.”

POB’s intention with the published information was to report that the Russians are dedicated to modernizing and completing the GLONASS system, making it more operational and thus improving the GLONASS functionality of GNSS receivers.

For more information on the GLONASS system, please click to POB Online at and search for “All the Birds in the Sky,” an overview article written by James P. Reilly, PhD, in September of 2004. Also look for future articles in POB covering various GNSS technologies and applications, including GLONASS.