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Galileo next-gen satellites on the horizon

on 05 November 2020

With 26 satellites now in orbit and over 1.5 billion smartphones and devices worldwide receiving highly accurate navigation signals, Europe’s Galileo navigation system will soon become even better, ensuring quality services over the next decades.

Following the European Commission’s decision to accelerate development of Galileo Next Generation, ESA has asked European satellite manufacturers to submit bids for the first batch of the Galileo Second Generation (G2) satellites. The new spacecraft are expected to be launched in about four years.

The next-generation satellites will provide all the services and capabilities of the current first generation, together with a substantial number of improvements as well as new services and capabilities.

“We want an ultra-flexible and mostly digital design,” says Paul Verhoef, ESA Director of Navigation.

“Developing the second generation is challenging for both industry and for ESA. In 2024, we need to launch the first satellites for this new state-of-the-art constellation.”

The second-generation Galileo satellites will be more flexible, able to be reconfigured in orbit in order to satisfy the expected evolution in end-user needs.

A number of challenges exist for the contractors, as the goal of a digital and fully flexible design represents the cutting edge of industrial capability. Furthermore, the required navigation antennas, the ones that transmit the actual navigation signals to smartphones and other receivers on ground, have a very advanced design, and quite a lot of research and development work by ESA has been done and remains for industry.

The European Commission has decided that what was previously going to be called the ‘transition batch’ of new satellites will now become, in fact, the Galileo Second Generation satellites. The European Commission and EU Member States have already made clear that they want to be very ambitious and further increase the technical capabilities of the Galileo system. The change of name recognises the reality of how the current batch are actually shaping up.

The transition satellites were initially foreseen as interim upgrades, to cater for the potential risk of late delivery of the later, completely new and very advanced G2 satellites.

You can read more about this subject at this link.

Image credit: ESA-P. Carril