Europe isn't the only one looking to deploy a next-generation satellite positioning system -- the US is at it too, upgrading the current GPS system, which we all rely on right now. The "Block III" satellites are due for blast-off around May 2014, but before being hurled into space, they have to go through rigorous testing. The first prototype is ready to be put through its paces, but will never see the void of space.
Lockheed Martin will be putting the test satellite through simulated conditions of space -- freezing cold, bright-hot sunshine and a total vacuum, all that good stuff. If it passes muster the US plans to put some £3.6 billion into 32 of the upgraded satellites, which should boost the satellite signal strength and give them a longer operational life. Interestingly they've also bundled in support for the new multinational positioning signal, L1C, which should enable rival satellite positioning systems to co-operate for civilian use to increase accuracy.
Europe's own Galileo system will beat GPS mark III to the positioning punch, coming online around 2019, but the original positioning system won't be far behind with current plans seeing it operational come 2021. Our current GPS systems may be pretty accurate, but you can never be too precise -- you do want your stalkers to know exactly where you're standing to the nearest centimetre one day right? [Lockheed Martin via The Verge]