by Robert Schreiber
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Dec 04, 2023
Airbus (EPA: AIR) has officially commenced the full-scale production of the Galileo Second Generation (G2) satellites, a significant milestone in the evolution of the European Global Navigation Satellite System. The production process is underway at the Airbus facility in Friedrichshafen, Germany, marking a new phase in the Galileo program.
The first satellite Flight Model structure, a critical component of the G2 satellites, has been received from Beyond Gravity in Zurich. This initial step lays the groundwork for subsequent phases, where these panels will be distributed to other Airbus sites across Europe for further integration and testing, before returning to Friedrichshafen for final assembly and testing.
Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus, expressed his enthusiasm about this progression. "After the successful design phase we are now kicking off production in earnest of the state-of-the-art Galileo G2 satellites. Our teams in Friedrichshafen are working with engineers across Europe to meet the challenging schedule and finalize these sophisticated satellites which will further improve the global Galileo system opening up even more opportunities for services on Earth."
To meet the ambitious goal of delivering all six satellites within a tight timeframe of less than two years, Airbus has developed a comprehensive and coordinated production programme. This programme involves leveraging the spacecraft manufacturing, integration, and testing expertise from various Airbus sites including Backnang, Friedrichshafen, Madrid, Ottobrunn, and Toulouse. According to the schedule, the second and third satellite structures are expected to arrive in early 2024 and towards the end of the year, respectively.
These G2 satellites represent a leap forward in satellite navigation technology. They will be equipped with enhanced navigation antennas to improve the accuracy of the Galileo system. A notable first for the program is the use of electric propulsion in these spacecraft. Additionally, the satellites will feature fully digital payloads that can be reconfigured in orbit, providing flexibility to adapt to evolving user needs with novel signals and services.
Javier Benedicto, ESA's Director of Navigation, highlighted the significance of this development. "This new milestone is a testament to the capabilities and dedication of the European industry and reaffirms ESA's commitment to redefine the boundaries of satellite navigation. I cannot wait to see the many parts come together to bring to life an even better performing Galileo system, so this EU program can continue serving European and world citizens."
Weighing over two tons, these satellites benefit from Airbus' extensive experience with the highly reliable Eurostar series of telecommunications satellites. A notable upgrade in the G2 satellites is the inclusion of six enhanced atomic clocks, compared to four in the previous models, and the introduction of inter-satellite links. This enhancement will enable the satellites to communicate and cross-check with one another, aiming to provide decimetre-scale precision positioning for users globally. Moreover, the spacecraft will be controllable with an increased data rate to and from the ground and will be equipped with advanced mechanisms for jamming and spoofing protection, safeguarding the Galileo signals.
The Full Operational Capability phase of the Galileo program is managed and funded by the European Union. The European Commission and ESA have an agreement in place, under which ESA acts as the design authority and system development prime on behalf of the Commission. However, the views expressed in this press release do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the European Union and/or ESA. "Galileo" is a registered trademark in the database of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (n 002742237).