The Galileo programme is one of the greatest and most ambitious European projects born from the collaboration of the European Union with the European Space Agency (ESA) to create a global navigation satellite system for a highly accurate, and reliable global positioning service which is interoperable with the U.S. GPS and Russian GLONASS systems.
Thanks to Galileo, Europe will have its own independent satellite navigation system capable of satisfying a wide range of business sectors, including transport (by air, rail, road and sea), telecommunications (geo-location services), and those requiring high security standards.
Italy has had a major role since the very beginning of the Galileo programme, first of all, through the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and secondly, through the involvement of the Italian industry and, in particular, of the Leonardo Group.
At full operation, Galileo will consist of a constellation of 30 Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites, of which 24 operational and 6 reserve satellites in orbit, and many ground infrastructures. The launch programme with Soyuz and Ariane rockets from Kourou in French Guyana started on 21 October 2011 with the launch of the first two satellites and continued with the put into orbit of the second pair (IOV3 and IOV4) in October 2012. The following constellation satellites were launched on 22 August 2014 (number 5 and 6), 27 March 2015 (number 7 and 8), 10 September 2015 (number 9 and 10) and 17 December 2015 (number 11 and 12) and 24 May 2016 (number 13 and 14). In 2016, the commissioning of the special Ariane 5, specifically designed for Galileo, doubled from 2 to 4 the number of satellites that can be put into orbit via a single lift-off; on 17 October, numbers 15, 16, 17 and 18 were launched.
The ground segment consists of two Galileo Control Centres (GCS) in Europe that have the task of managing the satellites and the system navigation mission, a global network of Galileo Sensor Stations (GSS) that send data to the GCSs to determine the integrity data and the synchronisation of the satellite clocks with those of the ground stations. The exchange of data communication between the control centres and the satellites is carried out by the “up-link” stations.
The first services are available from the end of 2016, while the system will be completed by 2020. The first four types of service offered by the system, distinguished according to the type of signal, open or encrypted, and the different needs of end users are the following: the Open Service (OS), the Commercial Service (CS), the Public Regulated Service (PRS) for security operators (police, military), the Search and Rescue Support Service (S&RSS) for the management of alarms and the localisation of users in danger, which is considered a major improvement, given that current rescue systems do not provide the user with this type of information.
Thales Alenia Space
Thales Alenia Space a Galileo partner since the beginning of the project, provides industrial support to the European Space Agency (ESA), carrying out activities related to the design, performance, integration and validation of the system and allowing the control of the entire navigation satellite system. The Company also supplies important technological components, such as signal generating units and antennas for the first 22 FOC (Full Operation Capability) constellation satellites, and the Precision Time Facility (PTF), which generates and manages the timescales in the Galileo system, as well as the Galileo Reference Chain (GRC), which receives and controls the Galileo signal in the ground segment. Thales Alenia Space has also carried out the assembly, integration and testing of the 4 IOV satellites (In Orbit Validation) at its Rome site.
Telespazio plays a leading role in the development of the programme, having built, at the Fucino Space Centre, one of the Galileo Control Centres (GCC), which manage the programme’s constellation and mission. A second GCC was built by DLR GFR, a German Space Agency (DLR) company, in Oberpfaffenhofen (Munich).
Through Spaceopal, a joint venture between Telespazio and DLR GFR, is responsible for the operations and integrated logistics of the entire system. In fact, Spaceopal provides the management and coordination of services using the "LEOP Operations Control Centres” of Toulouse (France) and Darmstadt (Germany), operated respectively by CNES (Centre National d'Ėtudes Spatiales) and by ESOC (European Space Operations Centre), which provide the launch services and putting into orbit of the constellation. Spaceopal uses the GCC of Oberpfaffenhofen and of Fucino for the provision of navigation signals and the in-orbit control of the satellites. Finally, Telespazio manages the IOT (In-Orbit Testing) system located in Redu (Belgium) for the testing of the satellite put into orbit.
Telespazio France also plays an important role through its teams in Toulouse and Kourou (French Guyana). The company supports CNES and Arianespace respectively in the management of the Launch Centre in Guyana and in the launch and putting into orbit operations of the Galileo satellites.
Telespazio VEGA Deutschland has developed since 1999, for the European Space Agency, the GalileoSystem Simulation Facility (GSSF). Currently, the company is prime contractor for both the Constellation Simulator for the Ground Control Segment and the Assembly, Integration and Validation Platform for the Ground Mission Segment.
Airborne & Space Systems Division
For the Galileo constellation, the Airborne & Space Systems Division provides the Passive Hydrogen Maser, the first hydrogen atomic clock built for space applications, used in all the satellites for both the IOV (In-Orbit Validation) and FOC (Full Operational Capability) phases.
With outstanding stability performance, the atomic clock ensures unprecedented positioning accuracy of the Galileo navigation system.
The Division also provides the IRES - N2 (Infrared Earth Sensor), an advanced and reliable attitude sensor for the control of the spacecraft’s position, which uses the Earth's horizon as reference.