The first two operational satellites of the Galileo constellation, launched on 21 October last year, passed further testing with flying colours, at Telespazio’s Space Centre in Fucino completing those carried out in Belgium at the European Space Agency (ESA) Centre.
Galileo is the satellite navigation system that will allow users to determine their exact position in time and space, just like GPS, but in a more precise and reliable manner. The tests carried out called for the reception and then validation of the functioning of encrypted signals that will make it possible to provide Galileo PRS services (Public Regulated Services) to government agencies, security organizations and Civil Protection agencies.
A worldwide network of ground stations, from New Caledonia to the Antarctic, continuously control the accuracy of the Galileo signals. The current In Orbit Validation (IOV) phase of the Galileo program, which will be completed with the launch of the next two satellites in September, continues with an intensive testing campaign to validate system performance and test future navigation and localization services.
The launch of the next satellites will be followed by the operational phase, that will lead to the completion of the system, for which the Control Centre in Fucino will manage the Galileo mission operations relative to the onboard generation and transmission of the navigation message, the subsequent supply of navigation services to end-users, the monitoring of service quality and the management of the land-based segment of the system.
The operations in Fucino are coordinated by Spaceopal, a joint-venture between Telespazio (Finmeccanica Group/Thales) and DLR-GfR, the German Space Agency.
Spaceopal is responsible for the building and management of the two space centres for the Galileo mission control. In particular in Fucino, in Abruzzo, there is the Galileo Control Centre (GCC) dedicated to the management of the mission and Galileo signal. And in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, near Munich, Spaceopal has built the GCC that will control the satellite Spotify constellation. However, both Centres will be able, in their final configuration, to manage both constellation control and mission operations.
The Centre in Fucino could be called the home of Galileo. It covers more than 5000 m² and when fully operational will have more than 100 technicians and specialized operators. It will manage the transmission of the navigation signal to the 30 Galileo satellites as well as guaranteeing the quality of the service offered to end-users. From the main control room, it will be possible to manage the orbit of all the constellation satellites and operate a network of roughly 40 ground stations.
The Centre will manage the generation, transmission and distribution of the navigation signal, guaranteeing its integrity, quality and precision. In case of system malfunction, the end-user will be able to receive information within a few seconds. Moreover, from here, the clocks on board the satellites will be constantly updated in accordance with the time of the entire Galileo system.
Starting in 2014, Galileo should begin providing the first three types of service at an initial level: an open and free service, a search and rescue service, and a public regulated service. Testing for the human safety service and commercial service will, instead, begin in 2014. They will be provided as soon as Galileo reaches full operating capacity.
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