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 Finmeccanica 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). The year 2016 will feature the commissioning of the special Ariane 5, specially engineered for Galileo, which will double the number of satellites, from two to four, that can be put into orbit via a single lift-off.

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 will be 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.

Leonardo participates in the programme through its joint ventures Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio and through its Airborne & Space Systems Division.


 Thales Alenia Space

Thales Alenia Space has been one of the key partners of the Galileo programme from the very start of the project. It defined the structure of the entire Galileo system on behalf of the European Union and is now responsible for the engineering of the global system for ESA.

Moreover, Thales Alenia Space is also responsible for the planning and development of the Ground Mission Control Segment and of the Space Segment’s major subsystems. In particular, in its facilities in Rome, Thales Alenia Space assembled, integrated and tested the group of 4 IOV (In-Orbit Validation) satellites and developed 26 Navigation Signal Generation Units (NSGU) and 23 satellite antennas for the operational phase.

Thales Alenia Space, which is responsible for the Galileo System Support Contract, provides industrial support to ESA by carrying out system activities regarding the planning and performance, integration, validation and product assurance of the entire system as well as the system security processes and the related certification.

Furthermore, Thales Alenia Space is prime contractor for the development of the Galileo Mission Segment (GMS) and of the Galileo Security Facility (GSF), which will ensure control of the entire satellite navigation system.

Finally, Thales Alenia Space is currently involved in the study of the development of Galileo, through the G2G programme for the definition of the next generation of the Galileo Space Segment.


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.

Since 1999, Telespazio VEGA Deutschland has developed the Galileo System Simulation Facility (GSSF) for the European Space Agency (ESA). Telespazio’s subsidiary is also responsible for developing the facility to support the testing and validation of the first four Galileo satellites as part of the IOV (In-Orbit Validation) phase of the programme. Currently, the company is prime contractor for both the Constellation Simulator for the Ground Control Segment and the Assembly, Integration & 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.