Galileo Update


Dec 2013 | No Comment

Landmark Navigation for highly automated driving wins Copernicus Masters 2013

Highly automated vehicles require highly precise and redundant positioning and navigation systems in order to stay on track. With an innovative approach designed to meet this need through landmark-based navigation, Hartmut Runge from the Earth Observation Center (EOC) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has just been named the overall winner of this year’s Copernicus Masters, as well as of the competition’s BMW ConnectedDrive Challenge. DLR’s navigation method incorporates street lights, crash barrier posts, bridge railings, and other roadside features that are easily visible for both vehicles and Earth Observation satellites. With modern radar satellites, a comprehensive inventory of such landmarks can be compiled with centimetre-level accuracy and applied to digital roadmaps. A vehicle’s optical or radar based system can thus constantly determine its current position based on triangulation of these points.

Delays for Galileo

The prime contractor of Europe’s 22 Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites said it is likely to retain its planned profit on the program despite delays that have caused European Commission officials to threaten penalties. Satellite builder OHB AG of Bremen, Germany, said it had completed development of the first satellites earlier than planned, and that this will compensate for the late start in testing and later-than-planned delivery to its customer – ESA.

ESA’s Galileo Satellites…

The first of the two satellites is now midway through a fiveweek immersion in vacuum and temperature extremes that mimic the conditions it faces in space.

This ‘thermal–vacuum’ test takes place inside a 4.5 m-diameter stainless steel vacuum chamber called Phenix. An inner box called the ‘thermal tent’ has sides that are heated to simulate the Sun’s radiation or cooled down by liquid nitrogen to create the chill of Sunless space. With the first four Galileos already in orbit, these new versions are the first two of a total 22 ‘Full Operational Capability’ satellites being built by OHB in Germany with a payload from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in the UK.

The second satellite joined its predecessor in mid-August at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk. This is the largest spacecraft testing site in Europe, with a full range of space simulation facilities under a single roof in cleanroom conditions. The newly arrived satellite first underwent a ‘mass property test’, measured to check its center of gravity and mass are aligned within design specifications.

The more precisely these are known, the more efficiently the satellite’s orientation can be controlled with thruster firings in orbit, potentially elongating their working life by conserving propellant.

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