Galileo (Global Navigation Satellite System)

Galileo is a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) that went live in 2016, created by the European Union through the European GNSS Agency (GSA), headquartered in Prague, Czech Republic, with two ground operations centers in Fucino, Italy, and Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. The €10 billion project is named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. One of the aims of Galileo is to provide an independent high-precision positioning system so European nations do not have to rely on the U.S. GPS, or the Russian GLONASS systems, which could be disabled or degraded by their operators at any time. The use of basic (lower-precision) Galileo services is free and open to everyone. The higher-precision capabilities are available for paying commercial users. Galileo is intended to provide horizontal and vertical position measurements within 1-metre precision, and better positioning services at higher latitudes than other positioning systems. Galileo is also to provide a new global search and rescue (SAR) function as part of the MEOSAR system.

The first Galileo test satellite, the GIOVE-A, was launched 28 December 2005, while the first satellite to be part of the operational system was launched on 21 October 2011. As of July 2018, 26 of the planned 30 active satellites are in orbit. Galileo started offering Early Operational Capability (EOC) on 15 December 2016, providing initial services with a weak signal, and reached Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2019. The complete 30-satellite Galileo system (24 operational and 6 active spares) is expected by the end of 2020. It is expected that the next generation of satellites will begin to become operational by 2025 to replace older equipment, which can then be used for backup capabilities.

By early 2020, there were 26 live satellites in the constellation: 22 in usable condition (i.e. the satellite is operational and contributing to the service provision), two satellites are in "testing" and two more not available to users. Out of 22 active satellites, 3 were from the IOV (In-Orbit Validation) types and 19 of the FOC types. Two test FOC satellites are orbiting the Earth in highly-eccentric orbits whose orientation changes with respect to other Galileo orbital planes. The Galileo system has a greater accuracy than GPS, having an accuracy of less than one metre (GPS: three metres).

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