GIOVE-A, the first satellite in the Europe-led Galileo satellite navigation system celebrates 27 months in orbit this month, marking the completion of its nominal mission lifetime. The European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed that the pioneering Medium-Earth Orbit satellite is a “full mission success” and has contracted SSTL to continue operations for an additional year as the satellite continues to perform and provide valuable Galileo services.
Under a €28M contract, the 660kg satellite was developed by SSTL for the European Space Agency (ESA). The satellite was designed, built and tested in a rapid (30 month) program and was launched, on schedule, on 28th December 2005.
The primary mission was to secure the Galileo frequency filings at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The satellite also played a crucial role as a test-bed for the Galileo payload units, providing a representative signal-in-space for ground-based experimentation with Galileo signals and characterizing the radiation environment for the Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) which will be used by all future Galileo satellites.
Following successful launch and commissioning, the GIOVE-A team undertook an intensive six-week payload in-orbit test (IOT) campaign using the 25m dish at the Science Technology and Facilities Council (STFC) Chilbolton station. Through these activities ESA was able to claim the frequency filings three months before the license expired.
Since commissioning the satellite has achieved a remarkably high operational availability with signals being broadcast for 99.8% of the time over the last year. The primary atomic clock, fundamental to all future Galileo satellites in providing highly accurate positioning and time reference signals, has been operating continuously since June 2007.
Thirteen sensor stations around the world are used by ESA to track GIOVE-A and GPS navigation signals and these have demonstrated that Galileo will be a highly accurate navigation system.
In addition to plaudits from ESA, the European Union and the navigation user community, SSTL’s GIOVE-A team has been recognized with the prestigious Royal Aeronautical Society’s (RAeS) Team Silver Award, as well as the Geoffrey Pardoe Space Award for an exceptional contribution to space, demonstrating first class risk and project management skills in designing and placing into orbit a complex, yet cost-effective satellite. The RAeS awards are considered the most prestigious and long-standing awards in global aerospace honoring achievement, innovation and excellence.
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