Europe Signs Deal For 8 More Galileo Satellites
The European Space Agency (ESA) is going to build eight more satellites for its Galileo satellite navigation system in collaboration with a German-British consortium. The agreement was signed at the International Paris Air Show with prime contractor OHB, a German company, and the British origin Surrey Satellite Technology that is going to be in charge of the navigations systems.
The Galileo satnav system, an alternative to USA’s GPS, is owned and funded by the European Commission, and ESA signed the deal on its behalf. "Europe's Galileo navigation constellation will gain an additional eight satellites, bringing it to completion," the ESA said in a statement.
To date, 18 Galileo satellites have been launched into Earth's orbit and four more satellites will be launched later this year. An addition of eight satellites is going to be built and tested by OHB. After they are launched, the constellation of satellites will include 30 orbiters and its total cost is being estimated at $11 billion.
Twenty-four of the satellites will be operated in three orbital planes. The rest of the satellites will remain in orbit and on the ground as spares. The Galileo is expected to be fully functional by 2020 by the European Commission.
According to Deccan Chronicle, the project has faced many setbacks. One of them included the positioning of satellites in the wrong orbit. The Galileo project has also taken 17 years and over thrice the amount of the original budget. It went live in 2016; however, the initial services were provided with a weak signal. The eight new satellites for the civilian-controlled service will be based on the approved designs of the earlier ones but will incorporate improvements based on the setbacks faced and subsequent lessons learned.
The project is strategically important for Europe currently relies on USA’s GPS and Russia’s GLONASS -- two military-run rivals. Moreover, neither of the two options provide the guarantee of uninterrupted service.