The European Space agency has begun launching fully operational satellites for their Galileo GNSS. After nearly a decade of experimentation and testing the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch two fully operational Galileo system satellites. The launch date was originally set for 8/21/14 but was delayed 24 hours due to weather conditions at the launch site. As it turned out weather wasn’t the only issue in store for the launch. Shortly after the launch, Arianespace, the contractor overseeing the launch of the system, confirmed that both satellite vehicles had not entered their expected orbit. (See the press release here). While the long term effects of these orbital issues is not yet fully understood, the ESA maintains their commitment to Galileo and will work to rectify the issue. The Galileo system will work alongside the U.S. GPS and Russian GLONASS Systems to enhance the functionality and positioning capabilities we have all become so reliant upon.
Galileo is scheduled to be operational by mid-2017 when the constellation will comprise 24 satellites, built by Germany’s OHB AG, a midsized German space technology company. Plans to reach full operational capacity of 30 satellites are expected to be fulfilled by 2020. The ESA has announced plans to launch a total of four satellites in 2014 with an additional 6 to 8 satellites launched per year until the constellation has reached full operational capacity. The satellites are being launched from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana aboard Russian-designed Soyuz rockets.
Once operational, the first civilian GNSS will offer several enhancements to GPS users including an increase in available satellites, an encrypted signal, and improved search and rescue functions. With many planned enhancements to the existing Global Positioning System and several countries, including China and India, developing and deploying their own GNSS. The future of GNSS is indeed bright – and we know where it is going, FORWARD!
Check out this great video from the ESA discussing Galileo.