The working nucleus of Galileo, Europe’s independent satellite navigation system, is already in place and active.
The first satellites in space and a world-spanning ground segment have come together to perform the very first solely European navigation fixes, and validate the design of the Galileo system.
To turn Galileo into something that everyone can use freely comes down to expanding its scale: for receivers to fix location a minimum of four satellites must be visible for anywhere on the planet, which means launching many more satellites and expanding Galileo’s ground infrastructure.
The complete Galileo constellation will consist of 30 satellites along three orbital planes in medium Earth orbit (including two spares per orbit). The result will be Europe’s largest ever fleet of satellites, operating in the new environment of medium-Earth orbit.
A complex process of batch production is preparing the satellites needed; with satellites 1-4 already in space, satellites 5-26 are taking shape along a Europe-wide production line leading to Europe’s launch site in French Guiana.
At the same time, worldwide ground stations located in far-flung European territories are needed to monitor the position and performance of the satellites and the atomic clocks – precise to a few billionths of a second – that are at the basis of satnav measurements.
This large-scale multi-faceted effort is being driven by the partnership of the European Commission and ESA.
The initial definition, development and validation phases of the Galileo programme were carried out by ESA on a co-funded basis with the Commission. The current ‘Full Operational Capability’ phase is being managed and funded by the Commission, with ESA having the role of design and procurement agent.
Last update: 22 August 2014