Galileo has already made its mark, serving over four billion users worldwide with meter-level accuracy in determining their positions. However, the Second Generation of Galileo promises to be even more remarkable, with advanced functionalities and capabilities on the horizon.
The G2 project represents a collaborative effort between the European Space Agency (ESA) and European industry leaders, including Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space. These companies are collectively responsible for the construction of 12 G2 satellites that will constitute the initial fleet.
What sets the Galileo Second Generation satellites apart are their groundbreaking features. These spacecraft will feature fully digital payloads, employ electric propulsion systems, host more powerful navigation antennas, and carry a greater number of improved atomic clocks on board. This modular architecture will offer increased flexibility to accommodate additional equipment and enable inter-satellite links.
The innovative design of the G2 satellites is made possible by the relentless dedication of European industry and ESA to push the boundaries of satellite navigation. Many of the innovations incorporated into these satellites originate from research and development programs like the Agency's GNSS Evolution Programme and the EU's Horizon 2020.
One noteworthy innovation within the Airbus Defence and Space G2 satellites is the navigation antenna, which has undergone rigorous radiated performance testing at the Spanish National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA). The navigation payload, often considered the heart and brain of a satellite, was assessed for its ability to amplify and radiate navigation signals as expected.
Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Airbus Space Systems at Airbus Defence and Space, expressed the company's commitment to the Galileo G2 project, stating, "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."
The flight model satellite structure, crafted by the Swiss branch of Beyond Gravity, was presented to program stakeholders at Airbus Defence and Space's site in Friedrichshafen, Germany. This modular design, originally created for telecommunication satellites, assembles different units around a central tube supported by an outside frame, forming a cube measuring 3 by 3 meters.
In the coming months, this structure will undergo further assembly, including the installation of the harness, the intricate network of wires needed to power and connect the satellite's components, and the thermal hardware responsible for regulating the satellite's temperature. After thorough testing for functionality and environmental suitability, it will be qualified for launch.
Javier Benedicto, ESA's Director of Navigation, shared his excitement for the development of Galileo Second Generation, saying, "The milestones in the development of Galileo Second Generation keep piling up. 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."
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