In response to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, ESA’s Directorate of Navigation has shifted to teleworking while also ensuring the continuity of essential tasks, in particular the continued delivery of positioning, navigation, and timing services of the European satellite navigation system Galileo and the augmentation system EGNOS.
The national, local and industrial decisions on travel, meetings and quarantine are impacting the ability to deliver all ongoing commitments, so measures are being taken to minimise their impact.
Priority has been given to ensure continued operations of both EGNOS and Galileo, so the ESA Navigation Directorate has been supporting the European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency, GSA – the operator of Galileo and EGNOS, on behalf of the European Commission.
In addition to ensuring business continuity in critical areas, the team is maintaining constant contact with the various stakeholders and several measures have been taken as follows:
- The first two satellites of Galileo’s Batch 3 are currently based at the ESTEC Test Centre in the Netherlands, for engineering tests ahead of launch. This test campaign has been suspended, based on the medical advice that too high a concentration of people would be needed on-site if testing were to continue.
- These stored satellites are being monitored by staff visiting ESTEC every few days, to verify that all is in order.
- Other Galileo-related testing continues with the aim of supporting future launches. ESTEC-based lifetime testing of the next set of rubidium atomic clocks is set to continue, involving on-site monitoring every few days.
In addition, the Directorate team has shifted to teleworking, using video and audio-conferences to continue meetings with the industries involved and thereby minimise the impact on the deliveries of EGNOS upgrades, Galileo Batch 3 satellites, and the preparatory work for Galileo Second Generation.
The navigation R&D projects undertaken under the Directorate’s Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP) are continuing although at a somewhat slower pace, given the crisis. So are the Satellite Navigation projects financed by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme and which develop future technology for the EU satellite navigation projects.
Paul Verhoef, ESA Director of Navigation, comments: “Confronted with this unprecedented situation, our efforts are focussing on business continuity and supporting the GSA with services provision of Galileo and EGNOS, while taking all necessary measures to protect our personnel. An impact assessment will only be possible when we see the end of the restrictions in the various European countries. For the time being, stay home, stay healthy, is the priority whereas however we are in close contact with industry to try and keep momentum on the projects that are underway.”