Galileo declares: Open for business!

January 11, 2017  - 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 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.

Galileo Goes Live! ceremony in Brussels: European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, responsible for the Energy Union, and Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, count down to hit the “Go” button.

Galileo Goes Live! ceremony in Brussels: European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, responsible for the Energy Union, and Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, count down to hit the “Go” button. Photo: Galileo

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).

The Galileo constellation currently 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 has appeared 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 expected 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.

Paul Verhoef, the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) director of the Galileo Programme and Navigation-related Activities, stated, “Today’s announcement marks the transition from a test system to one that is operational. 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 GSA. The overall Galileo programme is run by the European Commission, which has handed over responsibility for the deployment of the system and technical support to operational tasks to the 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.

Under GSA management, the contract awarded to Spaceopal specifically 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 for 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 the declaration, Galileo will start to deliver, in conjunction with GPS, the following three types of 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.

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

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 kilometers, rather than the previous 10 kilometers.

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.

Ground control upgrade for GPS III approved

The U.S. Air Force approved Lockheed Martin’s design to upgrade the current GPS satellite ground control system with new capabilities that will enable it to operate more powerful and accurate GPS III satellites.

The successful Critical Design Review (CDR) for the Contingency Operations (COps) contract, completed on Nov. 17, gives Lockheed Martin a green light to proceed with software development and systems engineering to modify the existing GPS ground control system, called the Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) Operational Control Segment.

The AEP is currently maintained by Lockheed Martin and controls the 31 GPS IIR, IIR-M and IIF satellites in orbit today.

The COps modifications will allow the AEP to support the more powerful, next-generation GPS Block III satellites, enabling them to perform their positioning, navigation and timing mission, once they are launched. COps is envisioned as a temporary gap filler prior to the entire GPS constellation’s transition to operations onto the next generation Operational Control System (OCX) Block 1, currently in development.

On Oct. 15, under a separate contract, Lockheed Martin completed the Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Upgrade #2 (CUP2) project — part of a multi-year plan to refresh the AEP’s technology and enhance the system’s ability to protect data and infrastructure from internal and external cyber threats, as well as improve its overall sustainability and operability. CUP2 is now fully operational and managing the current GPS constellation.

Lockheed Martin also is under contract to develop and build the Air Force’s first 10 GPS III satellites, which will deliver three times better accuracy, provide up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities, and extend spacecraft life to 15 years, 25 percent longer than the newest GPS satellites on-orbit today.

GPS III’s new L1C civil signal will make it the first GPS satellite to be interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems.

GPS funded at $847 million for FY 2017

On Dec. 23, 2016, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017. The act includes policy and funding guidance for the GPS program of $847.362 million. This total excludes $13.171 million requested for the GPS IIF program, which requires FY 2017 funding for on-orbit support and contract closeout.

Procurement of GPS III satellites is budgeted at $34 million, development of GPS III satellites is at almost $142 million and the next-generation ground control system (OCX) is budgeted at $393 million, which comes with certification and congressional briefing requirements. The amount includes funding for the GPS Enterprise Integrator.

The GPS Enterprise Integrator project includes efforts necessary to accomplish the critical integrating function with the entire GPS user community. The Enterprise Integrator maintains the GPS architecture and system definition, controls and validates interfaces, ensures compatibility of Generation II and III systems, and develops and manages plans for execution and fielding of the GPS enterprise.

The final defense budget item is $278 million for development of new military GPS user equipment.

Besides the NDAA, other areas that include funding for GPS and related programs are Transportation (including WAAS), to support designated civil elements of the Air Force GPS program, along with civil GPS augmentations and related activities.

The Department of Transportation this year requested civil funding for GPS through the Office of the Secretary instead of through the FAA. Also, the request does not include funds for the Nationwide Differential GPS (NDGPS) program in FY 2017.

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