According to recent news, GIOVE-B, the second experimental satellite in the Galileo Programme, is under going final tests at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.
An industrial consortium led by EADS Astrium GmbH was responsible for the construction of GIOVE-B. The satellite's main purpose is to secure the availability of the Galileo Signal-In-Space (SIS) after GIOVE-A reaches the end of its service life, which is expected to occur in March 2008.
Compared with GIOVE-A, GIOVE-B will fly new on-board technologies such as:
* a passive hydrogen maser, used as a precise time reference
* a different type of navigation signal generator
* solid-state radio transmitters
* a different design of L-band antenna to broadcast the navigation signals
* an alternative type of radiation monitor to continue characterising the environment in medium-Earth orbit
The combined in-orbit experience gained with GIOVE-A and GIOVE-B will constitute an invaluable resource for the Galileo In-Orbit Validation (IOV) programme and for the completion of the operational Galileo satellites.
The GIOVE-B spacecraft has completed its thermal vacuum test, which simulated the heating and cooling conditions it will encounter in space, at the Thales-Alenia Space facilities in Rome. It has been delivered to the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) for final testing in the ESTEC Test Centre.
The final test campaign will include:
* vibration and acoustic tests
* an electromagnetic compatibility test and passive intermodulation tests
* electrical fit checks with the launcher adapter
* a solar array deployment test
* interface tests with the ground operations centre, under the responsibility of Telespazio
* alignment checks
* propulsion subsystem functional tests
* final satellite-level performance tests
At the end of the test campaign at ESTEC, currently expected in mid-November 2007, the satellite will be transported to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. There, the launch campaign will be commenced, leading to a launch by the end of the year aboard a Soyuz-Fregat launcher.
In 2009, the first two satellites of the operational Galileo constellation will be launched, followed by the second two operational satellites in 2010. They will be used for in-orbit verification of the Galileo system design before being joined by the 26 additional spacecraft required for full operations by the end of 2013.
Galileo is a joint initiative between ESA and the European Commission. When fully deployed in the early years of the next decade, it will be the first civilian positioning system to offer global coverage.
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