The Galileo satellite navigation system has about 100 million users after its first year of operation, as per the French Space Agency CNES. The system, which is highly crucial to Europe, went operational in December 2016. It took 17 long years to be ready for launch. Initially the services it provided relayed a weak signal, and some of the timekeepers on the satellites did not function as two satellites were arrayed in the wrong orbit.
But, since then, additional satellites have been added, and by 2020 Galileo is supposed to offer enhanced accuracy than GPS, focusing on a location to within a meter, instead of several meters earlier.
With Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system is only one launch away from full global coverage, representatives of European industry gathered at ESA’s centre in the Netherlands to discuss the transition towards the future Galileo Second Generation.
Galileo Initial Services began on 15 December 2016, while the constellation in orbit has grown to 22 satellites. An Ariane 5 launch later this year of another quartet will bring the constellation to the point of completion with 24 satellites, plus two orbital spares.
Looking further ahead, with the aim of keeping Galileo services as a permanent part of the European and global landscape, a replacement set of Galileo satellites will be required post-2020, serving as transition to a future generation.
The Galileo Second Generation is foreseen to offer improved performance and added features. This is why the European Commission has decided on a Transition Programme, with ESA is in charge of its technical definition and implementation.
Together with the European Commission and the European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency, the Agency invited leading European space companies to its technical centre in Noordwijk to discuss Galileo’s future and present short-term plans in relation to this transition programme.Having started with the ESA European Global Navigation Satellite System Evolutions Programme (EGEP), the system and technology development of Galileo Second Generation is being supported through the EU’s GNSS and Horizon 2020 HSNAV Programmes, with ESA being delegated its technical definition and management of its related implementation.
Eleven Phase-B contracts were signed at the meeting for the Design Phase for both the Galileo Second Generation and the Transition Programme, complementing the more than 50 technology contracts signed in 2017 to prepare for Galileo’s future.
In recent years, innovations have been analysed and predevelopments performed in various technology fields (system, ground, space, receiver technologies) in order to assess their suitability for future Galileo activities, while ensuring backward compatibility and continuity of Galileo Services.