ESA has signed two contracts with Airbus and Thales for a total of €1.47 billion to design and build the first batch of the second generation of Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites.
The contracts with Thales Alenia Space in Italy and Airbus Defence & Space in Germany will create two independent families of second generation designs with a total of 12 satellites launching in the next four years.
The current Galileo system offers accuracy down to 1m to more than 2 billion users around the globe. The new generation is intended to be accurate to 10cm and require much lower power in the terminals. The 12 second generation satellites will be larger than the current 26 in orbit or the 12 satellites currently in production as ‘batch 3’ that will launch later this year.
The new designs will use electric propulsion for the first time. This allows the satellites to move to their correct geostationary orbit by themselves and means two can be launched at the same time to cut the cost of the project.
The satellites will use a new bidirectional navigation antenna design with more advanced protection against jamming and spoofing to provide more security for the signals. This will provide enhanced services for search and rescue, including two-way communications to the person in trouble. A new emergency communications capability will enable authorities to warn users in affected regions of imminent dangers such as tsunamis or earthquakes. Such warnings could be sent anywhere on Earth, independently of telecommunication providers, by using Galileo navigation signals as a one-way messaging service.
The fully digital payloads that can be reconfigured in orbit, and inter-satellite links will let them routinely cross-check their performance and reduce their dependency on the availability of ground installations.
The higher accuracy and lower signal acquisition power is aimed at boosting applications such as the Internet of Thing (IoT) and autonomous cars and drones.
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“Galileo is a major success for Europe, and these contracts ensure that it is going to be around for a long time to come,” said Paul Verhoef, ESA Director of Navigation. “The Galileo Second Generation will represent a further step forward with the use of many innovative technologies to guarantee unprecedented precision, robustness and flexibility of the system for the benefit of users worldwide.”
ESA is in charge of the design, development, procurement, qualification of Galileo satellites and the associated ground infrastructure on behalf of the European Union, the system owner. The Galileo system will be operated by the EU Agency for the Space Programme, EUSPA, based in Prague and ESA and EUSPA are partnering on the development and operations of Galileo.
Leaving the EU meant the UK no longer had access to the Galileo network, and so the UK government backed broadband sate satellite operator OneWeb with the aim of adding similar navigation services.
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