The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that it has awarded contracts, totalling €1.47-billion, for the design and construction of the initial group of the second-generation Galileo navigation satellites. The contracts, awarded after an open competition, went to Germany’s Airbus Defence and Space and Italy’s Thales Alenia Space.
The ESA was acting on behalf of the European Commission. The Galileo satellite navigation system is owned by the European Union (EU) and is operated by the EU Agency for the Space Programme. ESA, which is totally separate from the EU (for example, Norway, Switzerland and the UK are members of ESA but not of the EU), is responsible for the design, development, procurement and qualification of the satellites and associated ground infrastructure.
“Galileo is a major success for Europe, and these contracts ensure that it is going to be around for a long time to come,” highlighted ESA Navigation director Paul Verhoef. “The Galileo Second Generation will represent a further step forward with the use of many innovative technologies to guarantee unprecedented precision, robustness and flexibility of the system for the benefit of users worldwide.”
Currently, 26 first generation Galileo satellites are in orbit. A further 12 such satellites, referred to as ‘batch 3’, are currently being assembled and tested. Launching of these generation 1 batch 3 satellites will start later this year. The first launch of the generation 2 satellites is expected within less than four years.
Today, the Galileo system can provide metre-scale accuracy to more than 2-billion users worldwide. The second generation Galileo satellites will be able to provide decimetre-scale accuracy. They will also be larger than the first generation Galileos, and carry fully-digital payloads, which will be able to be easily reconfigured in orbit, allowing the service to respond to the evolving requirements of its users.
“New on-board technologies include electric propulsion to propel the satellites from the orbit in which they will be launched to the final operational orbits, allowing two satellites to be launched at once despite their increased mass,” elucidated ESA. “Inter-satellite links between the satellites will let them routinely cross-check their performance and reduce their dependency on the availability of ground installations. The satellites will also feature a more powerful navigation antenna and advanced jamming and spoofing protection mechanisms to safeguard Galileo signals.”