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The Galileo constellation


The Galileo constellation

The European Union’s long-standing dream of a constellation of satellites providing an independent navigation system is finally becoming reality. For the first time ever the four satellites currently orbiting the Earth are transmitting their navigation messages. The fully operational service should be available in 2019, several years later than first hoped. Costs have also risen, but the scientists remain optimistic.

Didier Faivre, the director of Satellite Navigation Programmes at the European Space Agency (ESA), said: “For the first time we have done the first positioning using European only means: the four Galileo satellites launched in 2011 and 2012 and a network of ground stations. Of course it is less spectacular than a launch but for us, it is as important. The first time we know that Galileo works and we are very confident for the full deployment.”

The system as it now stands represents the definitive infrastructure and is undergoing the In Orbit Validation phase to check that the design is working as expected. The fully deployed system will consist of 30 satellites and the associated ground infrastructure.

Javier Benedicto, the Galileo Project Manager, at ESA, said: “We have been able to measure the accuracy performance in the range of ten metres. This, of course, is not the levels of performance we want to achieve in the future, it is still not enough. But in the future, this performance will be improved gradually by deployment of more satellites, more ground stations and we will also disseminate to the users additional information we cannot produce today because we need to complete our system.”

If everything works well the world will have a state-of-the-art global satellite navigation system, providing an accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control.

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