With Europe’s Galileo constellation in space now expanded to 26 navigation satellites – and Galileo Initial Services available to users worldwide – the infrastructure on the ground that controls them is undergoing a corresponding expansion.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a new work order for the Galileo Control Segment – that part of the Galileo system responsible for the monitoring and control of all the satellites in orbit – to GMV Aerospace and Defence, Spain.
The contract was signed on September 6 by ESA Director of Navigation Paul Verhoef and Jesús B. Serrano Martínez, CEO of GMV, in a ceremony hosted at Spain’s Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities in Madrid, in the presence of Spanish Science Minister and former ESA astronaut Pedro Duque.
Galileo’s Control Segment is hosted at the Oberpfaffenhofen Control Centre in Germany, with a “hot backup” in place at Galileo’s second Control Center, at Fucino in Italy. It also extends to a network of Telemetry, Tracking and Control (TT&C) ground stations placed around the globe to stay linked with all satellites in the constellation.
The combination of these control centers plus TT&C stations are vital to keep Galileo running at its highest possible performance level. They monitor the overall status of the constellation, gather telemetry and uplink telecommands to each satellite, while also performing two-way radio and Doppler ranging to keep precise track of their position in space, identifying any orbital drift that might degrade the system’s accuracy.
The Galileo Control Segment has been designed to allow the automatic execution of routine operations. It also includes elements supporting flight dynamics analyses, and constellation operations short-term planning as well as operations preparation.
This first work order for the “Galileo Control Segment Exploitation Phase” contracts GMV Aerospace and Defence as prime contractor to undertake all necessary activities to upgrade the Galileo Control Segment as part of Galileo’s Exploitation phase, according to a press release.
This work includes upgrading the system architecture to manage a constellation of up to 41 Galileo satellites, updating declining elements in the current system, improving operability linked to the provision of services and the addition of a new, second TT&C station to be based in Kourou, French Guiana.
The integration, qualification, deployment and migration into operational service of the various segments of the upgraded Galileo Control Segment will be undertaken over the next three years.
This process is to undertaken while maintaining coherence with the other segments of the overall Galileo system – such as the Galileo Mission Segment which oversees Galileo services, the external control centers that carry out initial satellite switch-ons and in-orbit testing and the satellite platform and payload manufacturers, OHB System AG in Germany and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in the UK.
ESA has issued this work order in its role overseeing Galileo’s deployment, the design and development of future upgrades and the technical development of infrastructure on behalf of the European Commission, Galileo’s owner.