Europe’s ninth and tenth Galileo satellites have started broadcasting working navigation messages. The two satellites were launched together on September 11, 2015.
Once safely in orbit and their systems activated, their navigation payloads and search-and-rescue transponders were subjected to a rigorous process of in-orbit testing, to ensure their performance reached the necessary specifications to become part of the Galileo system.
Radio-frequency measurements of the Galileo signals were made from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Redu Centre in Belgium. The site has a 20m-diameter satellite dish used to analyze their signal shape in high resolution.
Along with assessing that the satellites themselves were functioning as planned, the test campaign also confirmed they could mesh properly with the worldwide Galileo ground network.
The testing was coordinated from the Galileo Control Centers in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany, which performed the command and control of the satellites, and Fucino in Italy, which oversaw the provision of navigation messages to users.
“This is the first recurrent launch of Galileo Full Operational Capability satellites from an in-orbit test point of view,” commented Christian Lezy, who supervised the measurement campaign in Redu.
The operations team, successfully led by SpaceOpal, completed the testing campaign few days ahead of schedule, with the satellites beginning to broadcast valid navigation signals on January 29, 2016.
The following two Galileos — satellites 11 and 12, launched on December 17, 2015 — are undergoing their own in-orbit test campaign. Once their initial Launch and Early Operations Phase was completed at the Toulouse facility of France’s CNES space agency (Centre National D’études Spatiales), both spacecraft were handed over to the Oberpfaffenhofen center during the Christmas period.
Platform commissioning and drift stop and fine positioning maneuvers have also been completed, placing both satellites into their final working orbits while their payload activation is proceeding according to schedule.
Galileo satellites 13 and 14 have completed all pre-flight testing at the ESA’s ESTEC test center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, and have been put into storage ahead of their launch. Production of the remaining 12 satellites is continuing around the clock at OHB’s facility in Bremen, Germany.
The complete Galileo constellation will be made up of 24 satellites across three orbital planes, with two ‘active spare’ satellites per orbital plane, ready to plug any gap in service should an operational Galileo malfunction.
The satellites are currently transmitting navigation signals for technical validation purposes, and employed by Galileo engineers as well as the rest of the satnav industry to prepare Galileo-compatible products and services.
February 5, 2016