The European Space Agency (ESA) is well on its way to showing that its future Galileo global navigation system will work as planned. ESA successfully launched its second Galileo In-Orbit Validation (GIOVE-B) satellite last month and test transmissions of the first navigation signals are currently under way.

The GIOVE-B signals are locked on-board to a highly-stable Passive Hydrogen Maser (PHM) clock, making it the most stable currently in orbit. These provide higher accuracy and deeper penetration to the ground.

GIOVE-B was launched aboard a Starsem Soyuz-Fregat launcher from Russia’s Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan, and the quality of its signal is now being checked by several facilities, including the GIOVE-B Control Centre at Telespazio’s facilities in Fucino, Italy, the Galileo Processing Centre at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), in the Netherlands, the ESA ground station at Redu, Belgium, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) Chilbolton Observatory in the UK.

Chilbolton’s 25-metre antenna makes it possible to analyse the characteristics of GIOVE-B signals with great accuracy. This 500kg satellite was built by a European industrial team led by Astrium GmbH, with Thales Alenia Space performing integration and testing in Rome.

GIOVE-B undergoing testing prior to launch 
GIOVE-B undergoing testing prior to launch

ESA Director General Jean Jacques Dordain says: “The strong cooperation between ESA and the European Commission has been instrumental in making progress in a difficult environment over the past few years. We now have two satellites now in orbit, and significant headway made on the next four.”

GIOVE-A is now coming to the end of its operational life, and the launch of the next four operational satellites will validate the basic Galileo space and related ground segment by 2010. Once that In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase is completed, the remaining satellites will be launched and deployed to reach the Full Operational Capability (FOC) - a constellation of 30 identical satellites.

Galileo is Europe's contribution to a global navigation satellite infrastructure (GNSS). The space project, the biggest initiated in Europe, has had significant problems and has already cost more than €1.5bn ($2.36bn). It is likely to require at least a further €3.4bn (45.37bn) to get it operational by the end of 2013.

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Source: Flight Daily News