First EU Navigation Satellite Payload Shipped

The Galileo satellite-navigation system – Europe’s answer to the GPS – took a giant step forward on Monday, as the initial spacecraft’s payload was shipped to Rome from the Portsmouth, UK factory where it was developed, according to BBC News science correspondent Jonathan Amos.

The payload in question is the Proto-flight Model 1, which will include the equipment necessary to record and transmit location and timing data to users, according to Amos.

“The 1.5m-by-1.5m-by-3m box leaving Portsmouth represents the ‘brains’ of a Galileo satellite,” the BBC News reporter says in an April 26 article. “It includes critical features such as the atomic clocks, the signal generation units, amplifiers and antennas. It is the part of the satellite that sends the ‘where’ and ‘when’ information to receivers in cars and mobile phones.”

This module will be part of the four-satellite In-Orbit Validation (IOV) program that will get the project started. The IOV test is designed to prove that the Galileo system will operate as expected. Before that happens, however, the Proto-flight Model 1 will undergo a final series of tests and maintenance, if necessary, once it reaches Rome. The test-run launch is scheduled for next April.

According to Amos, “Galileo will work alongside GPS. It is expected to improve substantially the availability and accuracy of timing and navigation signals delivered from space”¦ Users should get quicker, more reliable fixes and be able to locate their positions to within one meter compared with the current GPS-only error of several meters.”

Galileo is a $5.2 million project which is co-sponsored by the European Union (EU) and European Space Agency (ESA). It was initially launched in November 2007 and should be operational by 2013 or 2014. It is believed that Galileo will be able to provide more accurate measurements than existing sat-nav satellites, especially at high latitudes. Basic service will be free, but premium, higher-accuracy data will only be accessible to paying customers and to the military.

Image Caption: Galileo’s new technology will revolutionize our transport systems, increasing safety and improving efficiency; this will make for better quality of life and less pollution in our cities. Galileo will also bring benefits in other aspects of everyday life, with precision farming raising yields, improved information for emergency services speeding up response times, and more reliable and accurate time signals underpinning our most vital computer and communications networks. Credits: ESA- J.Huart

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