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The history of Galileo

The history of Galileo

The Galileo name first appeared in the Communication of the Commission from February 1999. Since then, the programme has been on its way towards full operational capacity. Fourteen satellites are already in orbit and a further 16 will be launched by 2020. The Financing Decisions for the programme were taken by the European Council in the early 2000s.

Phases of the programme

The Galileo programme has been structured according to two main phases:

In-Orbit Validation phase

The In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase consists of qualifying the system through tests and the operation of two experimental satellites and a reduced constellation of four operational satellites and their related ground infrastructure.

The two experimental satellites were launched in December 2005 and April 2008 respectively. Their purpose was to characterise the Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) environment (radiation, magnetic field, etc.) and to test the performance of critical payload technology (atomic clocks and radiation hardened digital technology). They also provided an early experimental signal-in-space to secure the frequency spectrum required for Galileo in accordance with WRC RNSS allocations.

The first two operational satellites were launched on 21 October 2011, followed by the launch of the third and fourth operational satellites on the 12 October 2012. Their purpose is to fully validate the Galileo concept, using the four satellites together with the Galileo stations and control centers. The first independent European position fix was achieved with the Galileo system on 12 March 2013.

Full Operational Capacity phase

The Full Operational Capacity (FOC) phase consists of the deployment of the remaining ground and space infrastructure. It includes an intermediate initial operational capability phase with 18 satellites (the four IOV satellites plus 14 others). The full system will consist of 30 satellites, control centers located in Europe, and a network of sensor stations and uplink stations installed around the globe.

Galileo infrastructure

The full Galileo infrastructure will be composed of:

  • A constellation of 30 satellites in Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO). Each satellite will contain a navigation payload and a Search And Rescue (SAR) transponder;
  • 16 sensor stations;
  • 2 control centres;
  • 5 mission uplink stations;
  • 5 telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) stations;
  • 4 service facilities: the Galileo service centre, the Galileo reference centre, the Search and Rescue data service provider, and the Galileo security monitoring centre.

Diagram showing the Galileo architecture

Who’s involved?

The definition phase, development, and In-Orbit Validation phase of the Galileo Programme were carried out by the European Space Agency (ESA) and co-funded by the ESA and the EU.

The Full Operational Capability phase of the Galileo Programme is fully funded by the EU and managed by the European Commission. The Commission and the ESA have signed a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as the design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission.

Galileo procurement

In early January 2010, the Commission announced the award of three of the six contracts for the procurement of Galileo's initial operational capability.

  • The contract for the system support services was awarded to Thales Alenia Space and covers the industrial services needed to support the ESA in the integration and validation of the Galileo system.
  • The contracts for two orders of 14 and 8 satellites respectively were awarded to OHB System AG. The first satellite was delivered in June 2014 and the last one is expected to be delivered in October 2017. The remaining 4 to 6 satellites needed to reach the Full Operational Capability will be procured in subsequent contracts.
  • The contract for the launch services was awarded to Arianespace and covers the launch of five Soyuz launchers, each carrying two satellites, and three Ariane 5 launchers, each carrying four satellites. The first launch of OHB satellites took place on 22 August 2014 from Kourou, in French Guiana.

The contracts were signed on 26 January 2010 between the ESA, acting on behalf of the Commission, and the companies involved.

On 25 October 2010, the contract for the operations was signed with SpaceOpal GmbH (an Italian-German joint venture) and the ESA on behalf of the Commission.

The final two procurement contracts for the ground mission infrastructure and the ground control infrastructure were awarded in June 2011 to Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defense and Space.

Galileo Drawing Competition

The Galileo Drawing Competition encouraged children to create a piece of artwork that represented the theme ‘Space and Aeronautics’. A jury of national personalities selected each country's winner who will have one of the satellites of the Galileo Programme named after them. The competition was open to children in the EU27 who were born between 2000 and 2002.

The winners

Winning drawings gallery

Complete list of winners in the order each child’s satellite will be launched:

Country Winning Child Country Winning Child
1 Belgium Thijs 15 Italy Antonianna
2 Bulgaria Natalia 16 Hungary Lisa
3 Czech Republic David 17 Malta Kimberley
4 Denmark Sif 18 The Netherlands Tijmen
5 Germany Doresa 19 Austria Nicole
6 Estonia Milena 20 Poland Zofia
7 Ireland Adam 21 Portugal Alexandre
8 Greece Anastasia 22 Romania Irina
9 Spain Alba 23 Slovenia Tara
10 France Oriana 24 Slovakia Samuel
11 Cyprus Andriana 25 Finland Anna
12 Latvia Liene 26 Sweden Ellen
13 Lithuania Danielè 27 United Kingdom Patrick
14 Luxembourg Alizée      
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