The System: Galileo Removes Manufacturing Barrier

December 1, 2009  - By

With final satellite construction bids pending as this magazine goes to press, the Galileo program clarified a recent round of launch postponements and announced that the European Union (EU) will rescind its requirement for a special license to manufacture and sell Galileo receivers.

“We have an ambition to become, after GPS, the second system of choice,” stated Paul Verhoef, program manager of the EU satellite navigation programs, at the World Congress of the International Association of Institutes of Navigation (IAIN) on October 28. “In order to reach that, the user market is key. We are currently putting our hands to the last bits and pieces of the documentation [revising the previous Galileo Interface Control Document], to be published in a few weeks’ time. We will no longer require a licensing document in order to manufacture and sell devices. We had to do this bit of work to follow up on the initial [different] preparations made under the public-private partnership.”

Contract by Christmas. The first two in-orbit validation (IOV) satellites will be launched in November 2010, and the next two in April 2011. Verhoef referred to the previous Galileo full operational capability (FOC) date of 2013. “You now know we are not going to meet that date,” said Verhoef.

“We come to the procurement as it stands at this moment. We are procuring the capacity through six main work packages. We are on track to announce the satellite contracts before Christmas, as well as the system support contract. Perhaps the launch contract, but perhaps not until after Christmas. The other contracts are not time-critical at this point, therefore we have delayed them slightly; to be announced in first quarter 2010.

“We have split the total of the 28 satellites we will order into two work orders. In the first, we will procure up to 22 satellites, and in the second the rest. Industry bidders are to submit their best and final offer for 8, 14, and 22 satellites. The most crucial decision in the whole procurement will then be for us to go single-source with one of them, or dual-source with both.”

The final and “best” bids were due to the EU and ESA on November 13 from the two consortia competing to build out the constellation.The EADS Astrium-Thales Alenia Space partnership, larger of the two, has by conventional wisdom the inside track to win the contract. However, the competion, led by OHB of Germany, includes Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) of the UK, which has the better track record in Galileo satellite manufacture to date.

“A double supplier would mean spending extra money,” said Verhoef in his IAIN remarks, “but it would bring some risk reduction. Will it be worth the extra money we will have to pay for it? By the end of the year we hope to have the answer for that. By the end of the year we will have under contract the delivery of 22 satellites, and the launch contract. Then we will be able to give a very clear schedule on deployment.

“There remains uncertainty on where it will end. Budget questions depend on parliament and the EC, which will drive the final aspects of the work. We live in difficult economic times, and there are some things to be determined in 2014, when the next funding cycle will begin.

“By the end of 2013, we will have an initial constellation of 16 satellites: four IOV and 12 FOC satellites. This is targeted to provide the open service, and parts of the other services: safety of life, PRS, and commercial. Completion of these will depend on funding questions.”

See the Satellite. An online story on Britain’s BBC News channel contains a two-minute video clip (see PHOTO) showing close-ups of the antennae and other elements of the IOV satellite under manufacture at an EADS Astrium facility in Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

Once completed, the payload will travel to Thales Alenia Space in Rome, Italy, for attachment to the main spacecraft bus, with a propulsion system, avionics, and solar panels, and then go to the European Space Agency (ESA) port in Kourou, French Guiana. Both intial satellites are intended to rise aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, which has had its own problems recently, with delays due to changes necessary for the ESA launch pad.

System Updates

GPS to Fly Without Back-Up. U.S. President Obama and Congress have removed a key back-up system for GPS. The president signed the Department of Homeland Defense appropriations bill that allows termination of Loran-C in January 2010. Loran-C and modernized eLoran could prevent national and industrial infrastructure breakdown in the event of disruptions, interference, or intentional jamming. The House of Representatives passed a Coast Guard authorization bill calling for Loran termination, in line with the DHS appropriations bill. For details see; see also “Letters” in this issue, page 13. The Coast Guard Commandant and DHS are expected to sign off almost immediately that Loran-C can be terminated. Once they sign it, Loran signals could go off the air as early as January 4, 2010.

GLONASS Signal Misbehavior. The planned September and October launches of three new GLONASS-M satellites were scrubbed, and the traditional Christmas launch appears doubtful at best. The Russians have commissioned a special task force to investigate a problem with the signal generator aboard an orbiting satellite, detected in late August. It is not known whether the same problem affects three satellites on the ground, destined for imminent launch.

Beidou’s Second Bird. Beidou G2, launched last April, has drifted 10 degrees from its initial geostationary orbital slot. This may mean that it is uncontrollable and has been abandoned. Such a failure — if it is one — may delay launch of new satellites to begin filling out the Chinese GNSS. As previously reported, demonstration satellite Beidou 1D is also adrift.

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About the Author:

Alan Cameron is editor-in-chief and publisher of GPS World magazine, where he has worked since 2000. He also writes the monthly GNSS Design & Test e-Newsletter and the Wide Awake blog.

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