Two new Galileo satellites in orbit
Kourou, French Guyana, 18:46 (local time), 27th March 2015. The Galileo program reaches a new milestone at the European spaceport: the successful launch of the seventh and eighth satellites for the European satellite navigation and localisation system by a Soyuz ST-B vector. The new pair of satellites then reached their assigned orbits and joined the other satellites of the constellation launched in October 2011, October 2012 and August 2014. With this launch, the first of a series of three scheduled for 2015 (the others are programmed for end September and December, according to the schedule established in late January at the Space Policy Conference in Brussels) the number of fully operative satellites in the constellation has risen to four.
The Galileo program is the result of the works between the European Union and the ESA (European Space Agency) to improve the technological autonomy of Europe and define international standards for satellite global navigation systems. The program’s purpose is to realise a satellite navigation system capable of providing a reliable, highly precise global positioning system interoperable with the United States GPS and Russian GLONASS systems. Once fully operative, Galileo will be made up of a constellation of 30 satellites in MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) and numerous ground-based infrastructures.
The Finmeccanica Group plays a fundamental role in the development of the Galileo program through its subsidiaries Telespazio, Thales Alenia Space and Selex ES.
The role of Telespazio is of primary importance in the Galileo program, since it was responsible for building one of the two Control Centres (GCC) that manage the constellation and the program mission, at the Fucino Space Centre. Moreover, through Spaceopal – a company established as a joint venture with DLR/GfR - Telespazio is responsible for the operations and integrated logistics of the entire system, assuring the management and coordination of all services.
After the launch, the Galileo Control Centre in Fucino will be involved in the program’s IOT (In Orbit Test) activities, to verify the function and performance of the payloads on board the satellites. Telespazio France played an important role in the launch operations, supporting CNES and Arianespace from Tolouse and Kourou in the management of the launch centre in Guyana, the launch itself and the entry in orbit of the satellites. Lastly, Telespazio is currently engaged in the validation phase for the early services of the program and in the implementation of applications based on Galileo, which will promote the development and dissemination of innovative services in a wide range of sectors, from transport and telecommunications to geodesy, oil exploration and mining.
Thales Alenia Space has been an essential partner in the Galileo Program right from the start: as responsible for the Galileo System Support Contract, the company provides industrial system support to the ESA regarding system engineering, performance, integration and validation. Thales Alenia Space is also the prime contractor for the development of the Galileo Mission Segment and the Galileo Security Facility which ensure control of the entire satellite navigation system. The company also supplies a number of key elements, such as the signal generator units and antennas for the first 22 satellites of the FOC (Full Operation Capability) phase. Thales Alenia Space was responsible for the assembly, integration and testing of the group of four IOV (In Orbit Validation) satellites at its premises in Rome.
Selex ES has also been involved in the Galileo European satellite navigation system since the very first stages of the program, developing and manufacturing the IRES-N2 (Infrared Earth Sensor), and the PHM (Passive Hydrogen Maser) atomic clock. The IRES–N2 is a particularly advanced and reliable tracker sensor for accurate measurement of pitch and roll attitude angles with respect to the Earth. The PHM is the most stable on-board clock ever developed for a space applications, capable of measuring time with extraordinary precision: one second of error every three million years. The atomic clock gives the Galileo navigation system absolutely unprecedented positioning accuracy, and has been integrated in both the Galileo IOV (In Orbit Validation) and FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellite systems. Selex ES is supplying a total of over fifty IRES-N2 sensors and as many PHM units for the Galileo constellation. Both systems are a determining factor for the quality of operations and the services Galileo will be providing.