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Artist’s impression of the Soyuz Fregat fairing separation
Artist’s impression of the Soyuz Fregat fairing separation

Source: ESA / Pierre Carril

With GALILEO, Europe gains independent access to the key technology of satellite navigation.

Satellite-based applications are already an integral part of daily life: for instance within the framework of car-sharing schemes in urban areas, delivery tracking, rescue operations and crisis situations or enhancing efficiency in agriculture.

The potential added value of associated innovations offers enormous opportunities for growth and prosperity in Germany and Europe.
Moreover, with the GALILEO PRS (Public Regulated Service) – one of the navigation services of the system – GALILEO offers for the first time an especially protected, encrypted navigation signal for civil use.

The current development status of the GALILEO constellation

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The deployment of the GALILEO constellation is progressing well. A total of three successful launches, each with two GALILEO satellites on board a Russian Soyuz launcher, from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guyana, make 2015 the most successful year of the GALILEO programme.
This series of successes was continued with another successful launch of GALILEO satellites nos. 13 and 14 on 24 May 2016. A total of 14 satellites are now orbiting the earth.

  • Milestone 1 – launch with Ariane 5: On 17 November 2016, the Ariane 5 European launcher – which can carry four satellites at a time – is to be used for the first time for a launch, and the number of satellites in space is to be increased to 18.
  • Milestone 2 – “Initial Services” declaration: At the end of this year, the declaration of so-called “Initial Services” is to make GALILEO signals from satellites in orbit available to users for the first time.

With this, the Open Service (OS), Search and Rescue (SAR) service as well as the Public Regulated Service (PRS) will become available for the first time. The GALILEO programme is leaving the exclusive test phase and is paving the way for global coverage.
For 2017, another launch of four satellites on board an Ariane 5 launcher is planned. The completion of the deployment of the GALILEO system, with 30 satellites in its full constellation, is planned for 2019/20.

The services of the GALILEO programme

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GALILEO offers different services for different fields of application:

  • The Open Service (OS) is available for applications of any description and free of charge.
  • By means of the Search and Rescue service (SAR), emergency calls can be made in the case of emergencies. In the full GALILEO constellation, the reception of the emergency call will be confirmed by the following return signal: “Help is on the way”.
  • With the Public Regulated Service (PRS), for the first time, an especially protected, encrypted navigational signal will be made available to authorized civil users.
  • Finally, in the future, the Commercial Service (CS) will be available for a fee to professional users that require high-precision, authenticated position determination.


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The deployment of the Galileo system is being funded exclusively from the budget of the European Union. For the period from 2014 - 2020, the European Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework provides for €6.3 billion (at 2011 prices) for GALILEO. In addition, monies are available from "Horizon 2020", the EU's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

Germany in space – the economic significance of GALILEO for the Federal Republic of Germany

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GALILEO offers Europe and Germany direct and fair access to the growth market satellite navigation. Globally, this market is estimated at €175 billion (Source: GSA Market Report, Issue IV).
Over the period to 2019, GNSS-capable products (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) are expected to increase from approx. 4.5 billion in 2015 to more than 7 billion on a global scale; this means that every person on the planet will, on average, own one device that uses satellite navigation.

What is more, the German space industry is fully involved in the deployment and operation of the system. All satellites commissioned to date have been built by either Astrium Deutschland (now: Airbus Defence & Space; 4 satellites) or OHB System AG (22 satellites). One of two ground control centres for controlling the operation of GALILEO is located in Oberpfaffenhofen. During the launch and early orbit phases, the satellites are launched from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) of the ESA in Darmstadt.

To specifically stimulate the high potential for value creation of satellite-based innovations and support the German industry in successfully positioning itself in the emerging market for GNSS applications and services, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is implementing a package of complementing, targeted measures: for instance, the BMVI Navigation Conference, the “Intelligent World” on-stage show, the national programme for promoting GALILEO PRS or the BMVI PRS special prize.

EGNOS – the regional supplementary system

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EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) is Europe’s regional supplementary system for satellite-based position determination. Via a network of ground stations and geo-stationary satellites, it increases the accuracy of open signals of global satellite navigation systems to 1 to 2 metres.

Moreover, with the safety-of-life service, it provides an integrity report. When the positioning accuracy of the signals is no longer within the specified limits, the user receives a warning. This makes the further deployment of satellite-based navigation possible also in safety-of-life applications, for instance in aviation.

EGNOS has been available since as early as 2009, the safety-of-life service since 2011. An EGNOS-based approach procedure is already being used at almost 200 airports in Europe, including at Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle international airport. By means of the future integration of the open GALILEO signal, the quality of EGNOS will continue to increase.