One of Europe’s Galileo satellites has been reconfigured to transmit a new signal component optimized to serve low-end receivers and Internet of Things applications.
The meter-level accuracy provided by Galileo’s Open Service makes it the world’s most accurate publicly available service, surpassing other global navigation systems such as GPS and not only providing positioning, navigation and timing services to users worldwide, but also assisting in rescue missions. . Nevertheless, individual satellites within the constellation can also be used to test new signals and services as the system continues to evolve.
The Internet of Things creates new needs
Embedded sensors placed in everything from household appliances to agricultural equipment to smart city infrastructure are on the way, allowing such objects to report and exchange their location information so they can work together. At the same time, these standalone sensors are limited by strict limitations on available battery power and computational resources.
To serve this emerging market of “Internet of Things” and snapshot devices and to respond to the needs of chipset manufacturers, Galileo engineers explored requiring a positioning signal that could be obtained with lower computational complexity.
Testing new signal component
This new test signal component in the E5 band developed by ESA is located along a narrow stretch of the overall Galileo signal, intended to enable streamlined positioning fixes that require less computation, with no effect on the E1 and E6 signal bands that Galileo also transmits on. Preliminary receiver test performance has shown that the signal component has the potential to reduce signal acquisition time by a factor of three compared to current GPS L5 or Galileo E5a signals.
“Until now, no other global navigation satellite system has provided such capability in the E5 frequency band, but the growth market perspective for such a feature is clear,” comments Jörg Hahn, head of ESA’s Galileo First Generation System Engineering Service. “With satellite reconfiguration, it would be possible to deploy such new capacity to the entire constellation within a relatively short time, directly responding to current user demand.”
One of the Galileo satellites in elliptical orbit – officially known as GSAT0202 – has been reconfigured in January to transmit this new signal component in the E5 band for testing purposes.
Once the satellite was reconfigured, signal measurements were made using the high-gain antenna installations of the Galileo In-Orbit Test Facility at the ESA Center in Redu, Belgium and the Signal Monitoring Facility at the German Aerospace Center DLR in Weilhelm, Germany, confirming the stability of the amplified signal.
Then, immediately after the test signal component was transmitted, it was successfully acquired and tracked by a set of receivers located at ESA’s Navigation Laboratory, based at its ESTEC Technical Center in the Netherlands.
Successful preliminary test of signal component
“The successful start of this test campaign is the result of intensive design and test activities,” adds Stefan Wallner, head of ESA’s Galileo First Generation Signal in Space Engineering Unit. “Thanks to the amazing engineers supporting Galileo within ESA and on the industrial side, it was possible to introduce this new test signal on board a satellite that was not initially designed for such a capability. Now we have tested this new signal component in lab context, now we are eager to see how it works in a real environment.”
The work has been supported by a range of industrial partners including Airbus Defense and Space, Thales Alenia Space Italy, as well as by EUSPA, the EU Agency for the Space Program – which oversees the provision of Galileo services – the European Commission, the Galileo program manager – and Spaceopal, which runs Galileo.
After detailed tests to demonstrate the value of the so-called “G1 E5 Quasi Pilot” signal component, in the next step the second elliptical Galileo satellite GSAT0201 will be reconfigured in a similar way, while selected chipset manufacturers will be involved in testing under the supervision of EUSPA . The test results will be evaluated at the Galileo program level to evaluate the inclusion of this new signal component in the constellation.
Galileo is currently the world’s most accurate satellite navigation system, serving close to four billion users around the world since starting Open Service in 2017. All smartphones sold in the European Single Market are now guaranteed to be Galileo-enabled. In addition, Galileo makes a difference in the fields of rail, shipping, agriculture, financial timing services and rescue operations
Galileo is a flagship program within the EU space programme, which is managed and financed by the European Union. Since its inception, ESA leads the design and development of the space and ground systems, as well as procures launches. EUSPA (EU Agency for the Space Programme) acts as a Galileo service provider, monitoring the market and application needs and closing the loop with users.
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