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Monday, September 2, 2013

Galileo to Miss Another Launch Date as Tests Continue on FOC Satellite

As reported by Inside GNSSAs engineers painstakingly work their way through tests of the first full operational capability (FOC) Galileo satellite at the European Space Agency’s European Space Research and Technology Center (ESA/ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, European space sources admit that the new generation spacecraft’s maiden voyage will not occur until December 28, if then.

Last week, ESA reported details of acoustic tests on the FOC conducted in the Large European Acoustic Facility, LEAF, designed to recreate the roar of a rocket lifting off. The satellite has since had its solar wings removed as part of the preparations for the thermal vacuum testing phase. The main satellite “box” will stay in a vacuum chamber for several weeks, subjected to the same temperature extremes it will experience in orbit.
The second FOC satellite arrived at ESTEC on 9 August from manufacturer OHB in Bremen, Germany, and will undergo a similar series of tests. These will be followed by a System Compatibility Test Campaign in which the satellite is linked with Galileo Control Centers in Germany and Italy to transmit signals to ground user receivers as if it was already in orbit.
Late last year Galileo program managers laid out an ambitious schedule of launches, including two dual-satellite launches this year, that called for having 14 to 18 FOC spacecraft in place by the end of next year so that they could declare the beginning of “early services” based on the system’s civil signals. But missing a planned September launch date will now cast further doubt on the prospects for achieving the latest milestones of the long-delayed program.
Nonetheless, last month ESA and the European GNSS Agency (GSA) invited companies to take part in a test campaign of Galileo chipsets to assess their readiness to support the reception and processing of Galileo signals in view of the planned declaration of early services.
The campaign will be undertaken by ESA between October 2013 and September 2014 and will consist of a series of laboratory and real-life signal tests making use of ESTEC facilities. Under GSA coordination, other product compatibility assessments may also be performed with the support of the European Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy.
The tests will focus on the compatibility of the devices with the reception of Galileo Open Service Signals and their combined use with GPS and GLONASS, covering aspects such as time to first fix and accuracy. Depending on the capabilities of the devices, tests can be extended to cover assisted-GNSS performance.
The purpose of the campaign is to get feedback and recommendations from the Galileo user community, with results on proprietary receiver test results being treated as confidential.