First Galileo FOC Satellite on the Air

December 18, 2014  - By
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Will Be Employable for Surveying, Precise Positioning, and Geodesy

By Peter Steigenberger and André Hauschild, German Aerospace Center (DLR) / German Space Operations Center

The first Full Operational Capability (FOC) Galileo satellite started transmitting L-band navigation signals on November 29, 2014. Based on data collected by a global network of GNSS tracking stations of the Cooperative Network for GNSS Observation (CONGO) and the Multi-GNSS Experiment (MGEX) of the International GNSS Service (IGS), we determined that an E1 signal with pseudorandom noise code (PRN) E18 was first tracked at the station LLAG (La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands) at 06:08 UTC.  A few moments later, the satellite’s transmissions were also tracked at other MGEX stations including the E5a, E5b, and E5 AltBOC signals. Based on the computed satellite visibility at various tracking stations, the satellite could be positively identified as GSAT0201, also known as Galileo FOC-FM1 or Galileo 5 with COSPAR ID 2014-050A and NORAD ID 40128.

FIGURE 1 shows the carrier-to-noise-density ratio (C/N0) of the E18 signals tracked at the CONGO/MGEX station SIN1 (Singapore, using a Trimble NetR9 receiver with a Leica AR25.3 antenna). We selected the signals from this station for analysis due to an E18 pass occurring close to the zenith and covering almost the full range of elevation angles. The E5a and E5b signals (S5X and S7X RINEX identifiers) show very similar performance, whereas the C/N0 values of the E1 signal are 1–2 dB-Hz higher. The C/N0 values of the E5 AltBOC signal (S8X) reach 60 dB-Hz at high elevation angles, which is about 6 dB-Hz higher than the other signals.

Figure 1. Galileo E18 carrier-to-noise-density ratio for the CONGO/MGEX station SIN1 (Singapore).

Figure 1. Galileo E18 carrier-to-noise-density ratio for the CONGO/MGEX station SIN1 (Singapore).

The first pair of Galileo FOC spacecraft was launched on August 22 with a Soyuz launcher from the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, French Guyana. Due to a malfunction of the Fregat upper stage, the satellites were injected into elliptical orbits with an inclination of about 49° instead of near circular orbits with 55° inclination. In November, the perigee of the first FOC satellite was raised by about 3,500 kilometers by a series of 11 maneuvers with a corresponding reduction in orbit eccentricity from 0.23 to 0.16.

E18 has been included in the precise orbit and clock solutions of the MGEX analysis center at Technische Universität München (TUM) in Munich, Germany, since December 5. FIGURE 2 shows the detrended estimates of the active Galileo E18 clock for December 7. The presence of a pronounced quadratic term as well the large drift of 33.9 microseconds per day indicate that the active clock is a rubidium atomic frequency standard rather than a more precise passive hydrogen maser. The FOC satellites carry two of each kind of clock.

Figure 2. Galileo E18 clock estimates for December 7, 2014, with respect to the hydrogen maser at the Ottawa IGS station (NRC1) after removing an offset and drift (blue) or a second order polynomial (red).

Figure 2. Galileo E18 clock estimates for December 7, 2014, with respect to the hydrogen maser at the Ottawa IGS station (NRC1) after removing an offset and drift (blue) or a second order polynomial (red).

The TUM orbit and clock product allows researchers to again compute dual-frequency positioning solutions using only Galileo observations, as the In-Orbit Validation satellite E20 has not transmitted an E5 signal since May, when a power anomaly left the satellite with the capability to only transmit an E1 signal. Furthermore, E20 currently does not transmit a navigation message.

TABLE 1 shows the scatter of single-point positioning using pseudorange (code) observations from the MGEX station MAS1 (Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands) for a Galileo-only, a GPS-only, and a combined Galileo+GPS solution for December 6. At an elevation cut-off angle of 10°, four Galileo satellites were visible from 10:15 until 12:25 UTC (see FIGURE 3). The GPS-only solution covers the same time interval. The start time is not limited by the cut-off angle but an E18 transmission outage from 3:45–10:15 UTC.

TABLE 1. Single point positioning results for the MGEX station MAS1 (Maspalomas) for December 6, 2014.

TABLE 1. Single point positioning results for the MGEX station MAS1 (Maspalomas) for December 6, 2014.

Figure 3. Galileo visibility at the MGEX station MAS1 (Maspalomas) on December 6, 2014. The time period considered in the single-point positioning is indicated by vertical lines.

Figure 3. Galileo visibility at the MGEX station MAS1 (Maspalomas) on December 6, 2014. The time period considered in the single-point positioning is indicated by vertical lines.

We used an ionosphere-free linear combination of Galileo E1 and E5 AltBOC code observations and GPS L1 and L2 code observations with a 30-second sampling interval. As the Galileo-only solution suffered from position dilution of precision (PDOP) values of up to 830, a total of 32 epochs with PDOP values greater than 25 were excluded. The geometry of the remaining epochs is still pretty unfavorable. At a mean PDOP value of 7.4, the standalone position solution exhibits a 3D standard deviation (STD) error of 3.4 meters. Use of the Galileo satellites in a combined GPS+ Galileo solution improves the positioning performance. In particular, the height component benefits from the inclusion of the four Galileo satellites with a standard deviation improvement of 25 percent.

Despite the orbit injection error, the new Galileo FOC satellite has now been successfully activated and added to the Galileo constellation. Unfortunately, the current orbit is incompatible with the standard Galileo almanac format, which may cause restrictions for some commercial receiver types.

Nevertheless, the satellite can already be tracked by a wide range of geodetic receivers with existing firmware versions and it will, in fact, be possible to use the new satellite for diverse applications in surveying, precise positioning, and geodesy, as well as in general multi-GNSS studies. We now look forward to the activation of the second FOC satellite, which can be expected in early 2015 and will, for the first time, offer multi-frequency signals from a total of five Galileo satellites.

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