LONDON A satellite built in Guildford by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and which is to form a vital part part of the Galileo satellite navigation system, is being prepared for launch.
SSTL's Giove-A test satellite is due to be launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan by the end of December and will broadcast the first Galileo signals from space and together with Giove-B, a second test satellite developed by Galileo Industries which includes U.K.-based EADS Astrium, will trial new technology.
Galileo is a joint European Space Agency(ESA)/European Union Trans European Networks programme. Due to be operational in 2010, the civil system will comprise 30 satellites and is designed not only to complement the existing U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) but also provide additional value added and safety critical services.
As well as being used by transport providers Galileo will enable people with mobile phones will be able to find out what's on at the local cinema, directions to their nearest restaurant and the system could even be used to manage power station networks.
The U.K. Government is major contributor to Galileo, along with Germany, France and Italy and to date the British National Space Centre and the Department for Transport have invested over Euro136 million in the project.
The 660kg Giove-A satellite is the first to use SSTL's Geostationary Minisatellite Platform, designed to carry a range of communication, as well as navigation, payloads. The satellite was designed, built and tested in 27 months.
A 25m antenna at CCLRC Chilbolton Observatory in Hampshire will detect Giove-A's signals. The Observatory is an outpost of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). The L-band receiver on the antenna was built by RAL engineers and will track approximately 28 overpasses, each lasting around seven hours, over a six-week period starting in early January.
RAL will also play a critical role in the satellite checkout in the launch and early orbit phase, a few hours after launch and will support the mission during the commissioning phase over the following two weeks.
EADS Astrium developed the payload for technology demonstrator Giove-B. The Portsmouth-based team tested and integrated the different equipment which includes an atomic clock or passive hydrogen maser. Giove-B will be the first ever satellite to carry this. With three navigation channels, Giove-B will be launched into medium Earth orbit in 2006.
In August, IGG of Fareham formed a partnership to support procurement for Galileo.