U.S., Europe ready to sign satellite accord

The European Union (E.U.) is set to sign an agreement with the U.S. on Saturday that could make the sky the limit on satellite technology, allowing Europe to push ahead with its Galileo satellite program.

The agreement will set out technical standards to be used by Galileo and the U.S.' Global Positioning System (GPS), a representative for E.U. Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said Friday. The deal is due to be signed at the E.U.-U.S. Summit taking place in Ireland Saturday.

The E.U. has been seeking an agreement with the U.S. since 1999 that will allow it to develop an independent satellite system for commercial purposes that can coexist with GPS, which is partly used for military purposes. Both Galileo and GPS are designed to determine a user's exact location using satellite signals.

The U.S. Department of Defense-run GPS system gives priority to military needs, however, and Europe wants to establish a commercial system that will deliver reliable service for civilian applications like vehicle navigation, fleet management and emergency systems.

The E.U. has said that Galileo will allow Europe to run an independent system that does not rely on the U.S., which could deny access to civilian GPS users at any time. Galileo will be interoperable with GPS and the Russian GLONASS System, which is also for military purposes, the E.U. said.

Europe has set its sights on a network of 30 satellites, due to begin operating in 2008. The E.U. and the European Space Agency earmarked

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