Galileo declares Initial Services

December 15, 2016  - By

At a Dec. 15 ceremony in Brussels titled “Galileo Goes Live,” two high officials of the European Commission issued the Galileo Initial Services Declaration.

The Declaration of Initial Services means that the Galileo satellites and ground infrastructure are now operationally ready. These signals will be highly accurate but not available all the time, since the constellation is not yet complete and users cannot always count on four satellites being visible at one time at all points on the Earth.
Simultaneously, the European GNSS Agency (GSA)  awarded the Galileo Service Operator (GSOp) contract, with a value of up to 1.5 billion euros, to Spaceopal, a joint venture between Telespazio and the German Space Agency (DLR).

At the moment, the Galileo constellation consists of 18 satellites in orbit. However, two of these are in an orbit not totally useful for positioning and navigation. Four more, launched in November, may or may not have completed their on-orbit testing (a series of notice advisory to Galileo users or NAGUs appeared today relating to the flag status of each satellite, see details at the end of this story) but have not yet been integrated to the operational constellation. This is foreseen to take place in spring 2017.

During the initial phase, the first Galileo signals will be used in combination with other satellite navigation systems, like GPS. In coming years, new satellites will be launched to enlarge the constellation, gradually improving Galileo availability worldwide. The constellation is expected to be complete by 2020 when Galileo will reach full operational capacity (FOC) of 30 satellites: 24 satellites plus six orbital spares, intended to prevent any interruption in service.

“The announcement of Initial Services is the recognition that the effort, time and money invested by ESA and the Commission has succeeded, that the work of our engineers and other staff has paid off, that European industry can be proud of having delivered this fantastic system,” stated ESA Director general Jan Woerner.

Paul Verhoef, ESA’s Director of the Galileo Programme and Navigation-related Activities, added, “Today’s announcement marks the transition from a test system to one that is operational. We are proud to be a partner in the Galileo programme.

“Still, much work remains to be done. The entire constellation needs to be deployed, the ground infrastructure needs to be completed and the overall system needs to be tested and verified.

“In addition, together with the Commission we have started work on the second generation, and this is likely to be a long but rewarding adventure.”

Galileo Initial Services are managed by the European GNSS Agency (GSA). The overall Galileo programme is run by the European Commission, which has handed over the responsibility for the deployment of the system and technical support to operational tasks to the European Space Agency (ESA).

Operator Contract

The GSOp contract runs for 10 years and covers  operation and maintenance of the Galileo satellite system and its committed performance level: in particular, the operations and control of the system, the logistics and maintenance of the systems and infrastructure as well as the user support services.

“With its emphasis on service performance, this contract will shape the future of Galileo. We look forward to building a strong partnership with Spaceopal as Galileo moves towards full operational capability under the responsibility of the GSA from January 2017,” said GSA Executive Director Carlo des Dorides.

Specifically, under GSA management the contract awarded to Spaceopal includes:

  • Secure operations of Galileo from two mission control centres (GCC), located in Germany and Italy, and the European GNSS Service Centre (GSC) for user support services in Spain;
  • Management of the Galileo Data Distribution Network (GDDN);
  • Integrated logistics support and maintenance for the entire space and ground infrastructure;
  • Monitoring of the system performance;
  • Support the completion of the Galileo infrastructure and associated launches.

Spaceopal has served as the contractor for Galileo operations since 2010 under the Galileo Full Operational Capability (FOC) Operations Framework Contract.

Products and Services

The first Galileo smartphone by Spanish company BQ is now available on the market, and other manufacturers are expected to follow suit. Application developers can now test their ideas on the basis of a real signal.

With this Declaration, Galileo will start to deliver, in conjunction with GPS, the following three types services free of charge. Their availability will improve as more satellites are launched.

The Open Service is a free mass-market service for users with enabled chipsets in, for instance, smartphones and car navigation systems. Fully interoperable with GPS, combined coverage will deliver more accurate and reliable positioning for users.

Galileo’s Public Regulated Service is an encrypted, robust service for government-authorised users such as civil protection, fire brigades and the police.

The Search and Rescue Service is Europe’s contribution to the long-running Cospas–Sarsat international emergency beacon location. The time between someone locating a distress beacon when lost at sea or in the wilderness will be reduced from up to three hours to just 10 minutes, with its location determined to within 5 km, rather than the previous 10 km.

Maroš Šefčovič, à gauche, et Elżbieta Bieńkowska

Maroš Šefčovič, à gauche, et Elżbieta Bieńkowska.


Accolades and Encouragements

At the “Galileo Goes Live” ceremony in Brussels, EC Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, responsible for the Energy Union, said: “Geo-localisation is at the heart of the ongoing digital revolution with new services that transform our daily lives. Galileo will increase geo-location precision ten-fold and enable the next generation of location-based technologies; such as autonomous cars, connected devices, or smart city services. Today I call on European entrepreneurs and say: imagine what you can do with Galileo — don’t wait, innovate!”

Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Galileo offering initial services is a major achievement for Europe and a first delivery of our recent Space Strategy. This is the result of a concerted effort to design and build the most accurate satellite navigation system in the world. It demonstrates the technological excellence of Europe, its know-how and its commitment to delivering space-based services and applications. No single European country could have done it alone.”

Canadian GNSS manufacturer NovAtel,  a long-time participant in Europe’s space navigation programs, sent its congratulations to ESA, the EC and GSA upon the launch of Galileo Initial Services. President and CEO Michael Ritter stated, “Today’s declaration validates the confidence of the program’s supporters that Europe would join the world’s operators of global navigation satellite systems.”

NovAtel‘s receivers, antennas and certified ground-reference station receivers have supported Galileo signals in anticipation of the complete constellation. NovAtel now broadcasts Galileo Precise Point Positioning (PPP) corrections through its TerraStar correction services, and states that its  OEM customers are already benefiting from the enhanced reliability, availability and accuracy the Galileo constellation adds to the GNSS.

Graham Purves, president and CEO of Veripos, a provider of global precise point positioning (PPP) correction services to the marine oil and gas industry, stated, “As a European company, we are particularly proud and excited about the opportunities the Galileo services create for our customers. The reliability and safety enhancements made possible through these new services allow Veripos to continue to expand the capabilities of our cutting edge safety critical positioning solutions.”

Veripos’s worldwide network of 80 reference stations already supports Galileo, enabling Veripos to deliver Galileo PPP corrections over satellite through products such as its commercially available Apex5 correction service. Veripos also offers Galileo support on its LD5 and LD56 GNSS receivers and Quantum software for industry leading high precision marine positioning solutions.

Advisory Updates

USABINIT NAGUs were issued for 11 satellites: 0101, 0102, 0103, 0203, 0204, 0205, 0206, 0208, 0209, 0210, and 0211. USABINIT, or Initially Usable, notifies users that a satellite is set healthy for the first time. 0104 had a power problem and is operating on E1 only. 0201 and 0202 were launched into lower orbits. 0207 and 0212-0214 are still undergoing commissioning and drifting to their designated orbital slots.