In the early hours of May 15, Galileo’s first full operational capability (FOC) satellite left the manufacturer’s integration hall in Bremen, Germany. The satellite, assembled by OHB System AG, is now headed for Noordwijk in the Netherlands, where it will undergo an environmental testing campaign and further system testing at the ESTEC’s Test Center on the premises of the European Space Agency (ESA).
Before the satellite was shipped, it had successfully completed integration and system testing, according to OHB System.
Its twin FOC satellite is in the final phase of completion at OHB System. Over the next few weeks, it will also be integrated and tested, after which it will be shipped to Noordwijk. The two satellites are to be placed in orbit on board a Soyuz launcher, which will is planned to lift off from Kourou in French Guyana this fall.
These two satellites are the first of a series of 22 Galileo FOC satellites manufactured by OHB System and its industrial partners. The FOC phase of the Galileo program is managed and funded by the European Union. The European Commission and ESA have signed a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the commission.
At ESA’s test center, thermal vacuum testing will simulate the temperature extremes the satellites must endure in the airlessness of space throughout their 12-year working lifetimes. Without any moderating atmosphere, temperatures can shift hundreds of degrees from sunlight to shadow.
Other activities on the schedule include shaker and acoustic noise testing — simulating the vibration and noise of launch — as well as electromagnetic compatibility and antenna testing, placing the satellite in chambers shielded from all external radio signals to reproduce infinite space and check that its various antennas and electrical systems are interoperable without harmful interference.
Each satellite will offer the full range of Galileo positioning, navigation and timing services, plus search and rescue message relays, their accuracy ensured by on-board atomic clocks kept synchronized by a worldwide ground network.
“The Galileo FOC satellites provide the same capabilities as the previous IOV satellites, but with improved performance, such as higher transmit power,” explained Giuliano Gatti, head of the Galileo Space Segment Procurement Office. “They are to all intents a new design that requires a full checkout before getting the green light for launch. By fully validating this satellite, the second flight model due to follow it here at beginning of June, and the third one due to arrive in ESTEC at middle of July, we gain full knowledge of their characteristics, and the further satellites in the series will require less rigorous functional testing.”