The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a deal with the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) to provide technical support to ASECNA based on Europe’s European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) technology and using the Galileo satellites. The system’s initial operational capabilities will enter into service from 2025. The signature occurred at ESA’s offices in Paris, with Louis Bakienon, Director of the ASECNA SBAS Programme, and Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director-General, doing the signing.
On the occasion, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher commented, “I welcome this exciting new partnership with Africa. International cooperation has always been an ESA priority; space technology has the potential to improve everyone’s lives, and by working together, we get to make that happen. EGNOS technology – designed, developed, and demonstrated in Europe – will have its clear safety, environmental and economic benefits extended to African airports, airlines, and passengers.”
ASECNA Director-General Mohamed Moussa also remarked, “The implementation of satellite-based augmentation infrastructure will represent a huge step towards unifying the African airspace. Airspace users will benefit across the continent from the most advanced navigation services and significantly improve their operations’ safety and efficiency and reduce their environmental impact. This service is sufficiently accurate and reliable to guide aircraft for critical flight operations. It will also be valuable across other important sectors, such as land and maritime transport, precision agriculture, drone navigation, mapping, and surveying.”
ASECNA Chairman of the Board, Jean Lamy, added “This programme is part of the Africa-EU strategic partnership on satellite navigation. It provides a solution for implementing the navigation and positioning component of the Space Policy of the African Union. It will support the development of a continuum airspace purpose of the single Sky for Africa Project (CUPA Project) developed by ASECNA and which contribute to the African Union’s Single Air Transport Market initiative (SAATM)”.
Likewise, Louis Bakienon, Director of the ASECNA SBAS Programme, noted that “SBAS services will enhance navigation operations for all phases of flight, from en-route down to precision approaches, and surveillance operations as well, as providing a source of position for terminal and surface surveillance.”
Julien Lapie, Manager of the ASECNA SBAS programme, opined that “The ASECNA SBAS programme primarily aims to provide, through a self-sufficient infrastructure, airspace users with advanced navigation services to significantly enhance flight safety and efficiency, reduce their environmental impacts and improve airport accessibility. This programme is a key enabler to implementing the Space Policy and Strategy of the Africa Union and is recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”
ASECNA provides air navigation services within the airspace of 16.5 million sq. km, divided into six flight information regions covering its Member States Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo.
EGNOS sharpens the accuracy of GPS signals over European territory up to metre-scale precision while also giving a real-time ‘integrity’ – or reliability – level of the signals and the final corrected position thanks to EGNOS. The current EGNOS system relies only on US GPS signals. Still, an updated version is being prepared for implementation later this decade (by 2028) – EGNOS v3 – which will utilise Galileo signals, further increasing its accuracy and robustness. Moreover, this second generation will also provide increased resilience to security (in particular cyber security) threats.
The current EGNOS allows aircraft to be guided safely down in any visibility to within 60 metres of height from the runway. At the same time, the new EGNOS V3 aims to deliver a future capability of an auto-landing service (a first feasibility demonstration of this capability was performed in November 2019 with an Airbus A350 at Toulouse Airport). The Satellite-based Augmentation system of ASECNA will provide the same levels of services based on a fully-fledged African infrastructure composed of a ground segment (reference stations, mission control centres, uplink stations) and a space segment.
ASECNA signed an international agreement with the European Union in 2018 on satellite navigation and is benefiting from funding and access to the EGNOS technology. ESA will deploy a team of around ten experts, providing technical support focused on ground infrastructure for the SBAS. At the same time, the French space agency, the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) will advise on the engineering of the demonstrator, the space segment and performance.