The European Space Agency (ESA) awarded Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) in the UK a contract Friday to construct the first test satellite for Europe's global navigation system, Galileo.
In a contract to SSTL worth 28 million euros ($US33 million), the demonstrator satellite known as the 'Galileo System Test Bed v2A (GSTB-v2A)' will provide the first Galileo navigation signal from space, measure the radiation environment in the proposed Galileo orbit and assist with international radio regulation issues.
Using GSTB-v2A, to be launched into a 23,616 km circular 56į inclination medium Earth orbit, ESA will be able to obtain an early experimental signal for the demonstration of Galileo technology and have an opportunity to test key European technologies in the harsh space environment that the operational Galileo satellites will encounter.
The results from the GSTB-v2A mission will be taken into account in the follow-on projects that will develop the full Galileo constellation of 30 satellites. Having an in-orbit test bed satellite will greatly reduce the technical risks in the development of the full constellation.
SSTL was selected by ESA for this critical first step in a huge programme because they have the greatest experience and track record on small satellites available in Europe and are able to meet the demanding schedule at a very competitive price.
SSTL specialise in delivering space missions with demanding technical, financial and schedule constraints and the company is especially well suited to perform missions such as GSTB-v2A.
In preparing the GSTB-v2A satellite for ESA, SSTL will draw heavily on the results of the UK British National Space Centre's 'MOSAIC' initiative, which partly funded the company's development of a low-cost geostationary communications satellite.
Claudio Mastracci, Director of Applications, ESA, said: "The award of the contract is great news for Europe as it means that we will have a satellite ready to be launched in 2005 in time to lay claim to the radio spectrum allocated to Galileo. ESA selected SSTL for this critical contract due to the company's unparalleled experience in Europe on rapid-response small satellites."
Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, SSTLís CEO, said: "SSTL is proud to be building the first satellite in the Galileo programme - Europe's largest ever venture into space. This prestigious contract confirms SSTL's reputation as the leading supplier of rapid-response, cost-effective space systems."
Lord Sainsbury, the British Space Minister, said "The European Space Agency's decision to award such an important contract to a UK company is recognition of the leading edge innovation and expertise of our space industry. SSTL have a track record in building small, innovative satellites for specialist needs and producing high technology solutions to challenging timescales."
The award of the GSTB-v2A contract marks a momentous milestone in the provision of an independent European satellite navigation system. Galileo is Europe's contribution to global navigation and is designed to operate alongside GPS providing the users with much better performance than GPS on its own.
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