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The System: ESA’s Second FOC Moves Up

February 1, 2015  - By
The fifth Galileo satellite is now pointing toward Earth.

Milena, or Galileo-FOC FM2, moves above the dangerous Van Allen Belt to rejoin Doresa, Galileo-FOC FM1, in a partially usable orbit. Photo: Galileo

By Tim Reynolds, GPS World European correspondent

Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain of the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Jan. 16 that the second errant full-operational capability (FOC) satellite, launched in August, had started its orbital change maneuver the previous day. He anticipated that the orbital change would be completed and the final orbit — “albeit somewhat lower in height than the one into which it was supposed to go” — achieved in “a few weeks.” He confirmed that both in-orbit FOCs work well, are fully operational, and provide excellent on-spec positioning data.

Two more FOC satellites are ready for launch, and a third has undergone thermal vacuum testing. Dordain said four will be available to launch soon, and he anticipated up to six FOCs being ready for launch in 2015 [word came at press time that all 2015 launches would be aboard the previously problematic Soyuz vehicle, and not on heretofore reliable Ariane]. The previous plan had called for four in 2015, but the total now includes two that were held back from a December 2014 launch. The actual schedule and launch vehicles are still under discussion, according to Dordain; the European Commission (EC) will make a decision at the end of January on this. He refused to comment on what ESA would recommend to EC on this front.

Read Tim Reynolds’ Brussels-based reporting the in EAGER quarterly enewsletter; free at

OCX, GPS III Pass Key Test

Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin successfully completed the fourth of five planned launch and early orbit exercises to demonstrate new automation capabilities, information assurance, and launch readiness of the next-generation GPS III Operational Control System (OCX).

The completion is a key milestone towards end-to-end capability to automatically transfer data between Raytheon’s OCX and Lockheed’s GPS III satellite. One more readiness exercise, five launch rehearsals, and a mission dress rehearsal are planned before launch of the first GPS III with OCX.

The exercise demonstrated mission planning and scheduling capabilities with the simulated Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) for the first time, including a replan scenario that would occur in the event of a launch slip.

The system also automatically generated antenna pointing angles for the simulated AFSCN — until now, manually generated. Exercise 4 introduced maneuver planning and reconstruction capabilities, as well as advanced planning and scheduling with AFSCN assets. Automation of these capabilities will allow GPS operators to optimize system performance rather than focus on routine operations.

Brigadier General Cooley

Colonel William Cooley, director of the GPS Directorate, has been nominated to the rank of brigadier general, United States Air Force. He wrote a December GPS World article on “What It Takes to Make a Gold Standard.”

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About the Author: Tim Reynolds

Tim Reynolds is director of Inta Communication Ltd. and a long-term Brussels observer writing on many aspects of European government policy and implementation for a range of clients and publications. He is the contributing editor for GPS World’s new quarterly e-newsletter, EAGER: the European GNSS and Earth Observation Report.