The first two Galileo satellites were launched into orbit on 21 October. Since then their systems have been activated and the satellites placed into their final orbits, positioned so that their navigation antennas are aligned with the world they are designed to serve.
Last weekend marked the first orbital transmission from one of these navigation antennas. The stage was set, the singer in place and an audience – in the shape of engineers on the ground – was waiting eagerly.
First Galileo test navigation signal
To prepare for the test, the payload power amplifiers were switched on and ‘outgassed’ – warmed up to release vapours that might otherwise interfere with operations – before transmission began.
A 20 m-diameter L-band antenna stood ready and waiting at Redu. The antenna is an essential ingredient of Galileo testing, able to assess the shape and quality of the navigation signals, even with the target satellite being 23 222 km up in orbit.
20-m diameter antenna at Redu
The test campaign is concentrating on the first satellite for the reminder of the year, with the focus moving to the second Galileo satellite from the start of 2012. The plan is to complete In-Orbit Testing by next spring.
The next pair of Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites will also be launched next year, to form the operational nucleus of the full Galileo constellation. Meanwhile the next batch of Galileo satellites are currently being manufactured for launch in 2014.
Galileo team at Redu
Galileo is an initiative of the European Commission and ESA to provide Europe with an independent global satellite navigation system.
The Galileo satnav system combines the best atomic clock ever flown for navigation – accurate to one second in three million years – with a powerful transmitter to broadcast precise navigation data worldwide.