First FOC Galileo satellites launch delayed

Late last year, Galileo program managers laid out an ambitious schedule of launches, including two dual-satellite launches this year. They wanted 14 to 18 FOC (Full Operational Capability) spacecraft in place by the end of 2014. Target difficult to achieve assuming the missing of the planned september/october 2013 launch, postponed to december. Even this last milestone seems quite unlikely to meet.

The first FOC Galileo satellite is under test at the ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, It has been acknowledged that the new-generation spacecraft’s launch will not occur until December 28, and even that date looks highly unlikely.

The two satellites are to be launched aboard a single Soyuz rocket following exhaustive testing by ESA. They are the first FOC satellites built by OHB AG of Bremen, Germany, with payload units provided by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of Britain.

Meanwhile, the testing of the Public Regulated Service (PRS) signal have begun, being broadcast by the four Galileo in-orbit validation (IOV) satellites. PRS access was initially considered for Galileo’s FOC phase, but it has been enabled in 2013 in response to the strong interest of member states in this service,

ESA has begun acoustic tests, thermal vacuum, and other tests of the first two FOC satellites. Among the reported problematical aspects of the FOC satellites is the PRS signal transmission, which will operate at a higher power than the IOV spacecraft.

The initial tests will be followed by a System Compatibility Test Campaign in which the satellite is linked with Galileo Control Centers in Germany and Italy to transmit signals to ground user receivers as if it was already in orbit.

The tests will focus on the compatibility of the devices with the reception of Galileo Open Service Signals and their combined use with GPS and GLONASS, covering aspects such as time to first fix and accuracy.

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