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The Galileo Programme

What is Galileo?

Galileo is Europe’s Global Navigation Satellite System. It provides a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. It is inter-operable with GPS and GLONASS, two other global satellite navigation systems.

By offering dual frequencies as standard, Galileo will deliver real-time positioning accuracy down to the metre. It will guarantee availability of service under all but the most extreme circumstances and will inform users within seconds of any satellite failure. This makes it suitable for safety-critical applications such as guiding cars, running trains and landing aircraft.

The European Commission aims to have the latest and full services available by 2020

The Galileo System Architecture

The fully deployed Galileo system consists of 30 satellites (27 operational + 3 active spares) positioned in three, circular Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) planes at 23 222 km altitude above the Earth, and at an inclination of the orbital planes of 56 degrees to the equator 

The Galileo ground infrastructure is composed of:

  • 30-40 sensor stations;
  • 3 control centres;
  • 9 Mission Uplink stations;
  • 5  telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) stations

Galileo system architecture

Galileo today – Operational Status

On 21 October 2011, the first two of four operational satellites were launched to validate the system. The next two satellites followed on 12 October 2012, making it “possible to test Galileo end-to-end”. Upon completion of this In-Orbit Validation (IOV), additional satellites were launched, aimed at reaching Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by 2017. The first determination of a position based on signals emitted only from Galileo satellites was achieved on 12 March 2013.

New Galileo satellite launches are on the agenda after a decision from the College of Commissioners announced by European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska. The first launch of two satellites was successfully executed at the end of March 2015 from the European Space Port of Kourou in French Guyana. On September 10th 2015, two additional Galileo satellites (FOC-M3 and SAT 9-10) were successfully launched from Kourou.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has the overall responsibility for the design and deployment of the Galileo satellites. After commissioning, the responsibility for the operation of these satellites is transferred from ESA to the European GNSS Agency (GSA). As of December 2017, the Galileo space segment consists of 14 fully operational satellites, with a further 4 under commissioning. The next four Galileo satellites should be launched on an Ariane 5 launcher from Kourou, French Guiana in Summer 2018.