Galileo: GIOVE-B calling planet Earth …


The Galileo In-Orbit-Validation Element (GIOVE) mission comprises two experimental satellites, the first of which – GIOVE-A – was launched in December 2005.

Eighteen months later, GIOVE-A successfully transmitted its first navigation message containing the information needed by user receivers to calculate their position. Prior to that it had broadcast only the data needed for measuring the receiver-to-satellite distance.

GIOVE-B transmitted its first navigation signals back to Earth just eleven days after launch.

These GIOVE-B signals, locked on-board to a highly stable Passive Hydrogen Maser clock, will provide higher accuracy in challenging environments where multipath and interference are present, and deeper penetration for indoor navigation. It demonstrates that Galileo and GPS are truly compatible and interoperable.

If all goes according to plan with GIOVE-B, the first four of the thirty Galileo satellites will be launched to validate the functioning of space and related ground infrastructure, in the first quarter of 2010.

The European Parliament has now given its backing to Galileo's deployment phase, paving the way for the Europe's satellite radio navigation system to be operational by 2013 – two years behind schedule.

The quality of the signals transmitted by GIOVE-B is now being checked. Several facilities are involved in this process, including the GIOVE-B Control Centre at Telespazio's facilities in Fucino, Italy, the Galileo Processing Centre at ESA's European Space Research & Technology Centre (ESTEC), in the Netherlands, the ESA ground station at Redu, Belgium, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) Chilbolton Observatory in the UK.

The signal quality will have an important influence on the accuracy of the positioning information that will be provided by the user receivers on the ground.

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