Galileo: the European GPS constellation is soon complete

The Galileo satellite positioning system continues to be developed. Two satellites will soon join the 26 others already in orbit. Six more must be sent.

There are only a few satellites missing to deploy in space to complete Galileo. The first generation of the European satellite positioning system is already well developed, with 26 devices in orbit around the Earth. There are still eight missing to position, two of which will be dispatched very soon during a mission scheduled for the very beginning of December.

The shooting should take place on the night of December 1 to 2 from the Guyanese space center, not far from Kourou. It is a Russian launcher, the Soyuz, which will be mobilized for this flight. The rocket is used to the delivery of Galileo satellites: it has already transported fourteen between 2011 and 2016, when the European satellite positioning service finally came into operation, after a long waiting period.

An artist’s impression of Galileo satellites around the Earth. // Source: OHB / ESA (cropped photo)

These two satellites will be followed by other launches provided by both Soyuz and Ariane 6, the new European rocket, in its version with two boosters (it can also be available in a version with four booster boosters). The two rockets will be responsible for deploying six satellites, indicates the press release from Arianespace published on November 24.

Galileo wants to be an alternative to the American GPS, which was put in place from the 1970s, for reasons of strategic autonomy. Although GPS benefits from improvements over time, with new, more modern and newer satellites being sent to replace the older generations, Galileo today offers a degree of accuracy that is considered superior.

More than 2.3 billion people benefit from Galileo

Unless there is an incident on the schedule, the full deployment of first generation Galileo is scheduled for around 2025. The rest is already on the program, with a second generation, much more efficient, which should start to take off in the coming years. In particular, this Galileo v2 will allow much faster signal acquisition.

Whether it is for the first generation or the following ones, all the satellites sent into space will not be active – some are placed in reserve, to possibly alleviate the unexpected failures observed on such or such other unit. In addition, to improve the experience of Galileo users, interoperability with other positioning systems, such as GPS, is taken into account.

Currently, according to Arianespace, Galileo delivers its positioning, navigation and time synchronization services ” to more than 2.3 billion users worldwide “. Many systems now have everything needed to communicate with this satellite network, including smartphones: there are now hundreds that are compatible with Galileo.

Look at the world from space

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