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Galileo Control Segment upgrade ready for next launch

Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. (Photo: ESA)

Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. (Photo: ESA)

News from the European Space Agency (ESA)

The 11th launch of Galileo satellites, planned for Dec. 1, marks an important program milestone. With an upgrade of the Galileo Control Segment (GCS), this will be the first launch where the satellites’ first steps into space will be overseen from the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

Up until now, the Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOP) of Galileo satellites has been overseen from an external mission control site — either ESA’s ESOC control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, or French space agency CNES’s site in Toulouse, France.

The demanding upgrade of the GCS to Version 3.0 was performed by an industrial consortium led by GMV in Spain. The control segment encompasses the two Galileo Control Centres in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany and Fucino in Italy, as well as six Telemetry, Tracking and Control (TT&C) ground stations used to monitor and command the 26 Galileo satellites in orbit.

As well as increasing overall reliability and cybersecurity, the new upgrade opens the way to significant expansion of the Galileo constellation, enabling oversight of up to 38 satellites.

Over the last three years, a complete technological refresh of the GCS software and hardware was done, including porting of software modules corresponding to several million lines of code, the deployment of equipment at many Galileo sites, and the execution of a rigorous level of testing throughout all elements comprising the system.

Commencing in mid-2018, the upgrade had to contend with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic midway through its lifetime, but the team pushed on to conclude at the end of July. Since Aug. 4, it has been used to nominally operate all the satellites in the constellation.

The project was overseen by ESA in its System Prime role managing Galileo’s design, development, qualification and deployment of future upgrades on behalf of the European Commission, Galileo’s owner.

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