Directions 2015: Galileo Looks Ahead to Early Services

December 1, 2014  - By

GPS-directions-GalileoThe European GNSS Agency (GSA) hosted the ninth meeting of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG) in November at its headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic. The event is an opportunity for GNSS providers to present the status and future plans for their systems, and an opportunity for ICG members, associate members, and observers to provide updates on recent developments with regard to GNSS services and applications.

Representatives from the world’s leading global and regional GNSS programs were invited to provide the assembly with a “state of play” for their respective systems. Joining GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, IRNSS/GAGAN, and QZSS was Galileo, represented by Christian Siebert, Head of Unit, Galileo and EGNOS: Applications, Security and International Cooperation, DG Enterprise and Industry, European Commission.

A Secure Foundation

The key message coming from Prague was that, despite the launch anomaly in August, the Galileo program has a secure foundation for moving forward. For instance, it has been given a stable seven-year perspective, a substantial budget, and a new exploitation-driven governance scheme. In terms of budget, the European Commission has allocated €1.930 billion for deployment and €3 billion for exploitation — with an additional €1.580 billion allocation for European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) exploitation.

The new governance scheme is based on a recently announced agreement between the European Commission and the GSA; the agreement delegates a range of exploitation tasks for Galileo to the GSA. Serving as an initial step towards the full Galileo Exploitation Phase, the GSA’s responsibilities now include:

  • provision and marketing of the services;
  • management, maintenance, continuous improvement, evolution and protection of the space and ground infrastructure;
  • research and development of receiver platforms with innovative features in different application domains;
  • development of future generations of the system;
  • cooperation with other GNSS;
  • all other required activities to ensure the development and smooth running of the system.

This new budget and governance structure ensures the Galileo program’s stability for the next seven years, according to a GSA press release. The agency will progressively manage exploitation activities as delegated by the European Commission, which serves as the program’s supervisor.

At the same time, the European Space Agency (ESA) will continue its role for system design and development.

A Range of Successes

“The past year has seen the program achieve a range of milestones,” said Siebert. “The Galileo In-Orbit Validation Phase was successfully concluded, the ground infrastructure deployment finalized for initial operations, and the new satellite design qualified.”

Even with the satellite launch anomaly that left two satellites in the wrong orbit, the ESA just announced that one of these satellites will soon make a series of maneuvers as a prelude to its health being confirmed. The aim is to raise the lowest point of its orbit — its perigee — to reduce the radiation exposure from the Van Allen radiation belts surrounding Earth, as well as put it into a more useful orbit for navigation purposes. If the operation is successful, the second satellite will follow suit.

As to the cause of the anomaly itself, Siebert said Arianespace has established an inquiry board to investigate, and the European Commission and ESA continue to analyze the best options for recovering the initial mission to the best possible extent. A new launch sequence will be confirmed in the near future.

That being said, the deployment plan for the Galileo constellation is secured, with 26 satellites ordered (four IOV and 22 FOC) and launcher service contracts for the full constellation signed with Arianespace. As to the new satellite design, production proceeds at a good pace, with full operational capability (FOC) satellites being built by OHB Systems and navigation payloads provided by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.

In terms of services, the Search and Rescue Forward Link Alert Service successfully tested the networked ground segment last April, and positioning accuracy exceeds expectations.

As to the Commercial Services Demonstrator, the main objective of the demonstrator was to test and characterize the high accuracy and authentication performance obtainable with the Galileo Commercial Service. The first results are extremely promising, with high accuracy already demonstrated through PPP information transmitted via E6B and used to enhance both Galileo and GPS. 

Siebert noted that the ongoing Receiver Test Campaign supports manufacturers to ensure that Galileo is well implemented in chipsets and receivers. To accomplish this, the program continues to develop dialogs with the user/receiver segment to understand the market situation and follow up adoption of Galileo.

Looking Ahead

With this secure foundation, looking towards 2015 and beyond, Galileo is set to deliver a reliable, high-quality service to the world, according to EC and ESA spokespersons presenting at the ICG. “With its substantial budget and exploitation-focused governance scheme, it will continue to evolve and introduce innovative features,” Siebert affirmed.

Next steps for the program include a gradual introduction of the early phase of service delivery, which will rely heavily on interaction with users. Early services will be run with continued infrastructure deployments. The program will soon conduct a service validation campaign, along with finalizing the Commercial Service definition and developing a long-term service plan. 

“This service plan will be aligned with the trend of most user communities moving towards service levels based on a multi-constellation approach,” concluded Siebert. “Knowing this, it is crucial to continue to improve signal compatibility and interoperability of the Galileo service with other providers and cooperate on building multi-constellation programs.”


Photo: Galileo