EU launches two more Galileo satellites to enhance the network

This is the first of six planned launches by the EU, to expand the capabilities and services of the Galileo satellite network.

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The EU has successfully launched two more Galileo satellites into orbit, bringing the total number to 28, to enable more robust services and precise signals from the network.

The Galileo Launch 11 from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana is the first of six planned launches that will allow the satellite network to deliver greater accuracy to existing users and open new market opportunities.

Galileo is an EU programme to develop a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) under civilian control. Its goal is to allow users worldwide to know their exact position in time and space with precision and reliability, as an alternative to the non-civilian American GPS or Russian GLONASS signals.

The expansion of Galileo is part of the EU’s new €14.8bn space programme, in a bid to become a global leader in this sector.

Galileo operations are being managed by the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), which launched earlier this year. It is the successor to the European GNSS Agency (GSA) and represents the first-ever integrated EU space programme.

As part of a European partnership, the European Commission manages Galileo, with the EUSPA overseeing Galileo operations and service provision while the ESA is the design authority overseeing its development and procuring satellites.

The EUSPA’s executive director Rodrigo da Costa described the latest Galileo launch as a milestone achieved by the EU’s most ambitious and largest industrial project.

“The successful addition of satellites 27 [and] 28 to the world’s most precise positioning system is a very important step for our more than 2bn users around the world and is the result of a robust collaboration between us, the European Commission, the ESA and our industrial partners.”

The EUSPA team in charge of the satellite operations have to maneuver the satellites from a dedicated Galileo control centre in Germany. The satellite systems are gradually switched on and tested until they are precisely placed into their home orbit at 23,220km. Once the tests are complete, the new satellites join the Galileo network.

Initial services became available on 15 December 2016, with new functions being tested and made available as the satellite network grows.

Galileo currently provides a range of services to the EU, including the ability to pick up SOS signals and send them to search and rescue services.

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