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What is Galileo?

Galileo is the European Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS), being developed by the European Commission. The system will be the first civilian-controlled GNSS in the world. With full services planned for 2020, Galileo will provide highly-accurate, guaranteed global positioning to users. The system will offer the following services:

  • Open Service (OS) – available and free for all users
  • Open Service Navigation Message Authentication (OS-NMA) – available and free for all users
  • High Accuracy Service (HAS) – available and free for all users
  • Signal Authentication Service (SAS) – paid service for commercial users
  • Search-and-Rescue (SAR) service – as part of Cospas-Sarsat
  • Public Regulated Service (PRS) – restricted service for European government-authorised users

All of these services are available globally.

The Open Service of Galileo will provide real-time positioning to the metre-level, with dual frequency available as standard. In addition, supplementary services such as the High Accuracy Service (HAS) and the authenticated services (OS-NMA and SAS) will increase the service offering to enable new kinds of mass market and professional applications.

The Galileo system is owned by the European Commission and operated by the European GNSS Agency (GSA). Design and development of the system is led by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Galileo – System Architecture

The fully-deployed Galileo system will consist of approximately 30 satellites positioned in three orbital planes (each at around 23,222 km altitude above the Earth). The Galileo constellation, once complete, will offer its services across the globe.

The Galileo satellites use high-performance onboard clocks to deliver unparalleled performance. The satellites are complemented by an extensive network of ground sensor stations, which are used to relay information to and from the satellites. The entire system is controlled by two ground-stations, located in Oberpfaffenhofen (Germany) and Fucino (Italy).

Galileo – Status

The first Galileo satellites were launched in October 2011, with a total of 26 Galileo satellites now in-orbit (status July 2018).

Based on the success of the early constellation development, the Initial Services were declared operational in December 2016. As the number of satellites has grown, the service performance and signal availability has increased rapidly. The full Galileo system should be operational by 2020, and by that point will be able to high performance services across the world.