By Carlo des Dorides*:
July 1, 2017 is an important date for both the European GNSS Agency (GSA) and for the Galileo programme. Following a six-month handover phase that began on January 1st, as of July 1st the GSA officially takes responsibility for overseeing the operations and service provision for Galileo – a responsibility that includes ensuring a return on investment from Galileo in the form of across-the-board services and applications.
Our journey began three years ago when the European Commission issued Regulation 1285, stating that the Galileo exploitation phase was to start in 2016 and delegating the responsibility for overseeing this key phase to the GSA. Last year’s Declaration of Initial Services and the awarding of the Galileo Service Operator (GSOp) contract marked the official transition of Galileo from a testing phase to a system in service – and were the first concrete steps taken by the GSA in our new role.
Overseeing the Galileo service provision is no simple task, and one that requires the GSA to wear multiple hats. For example, our responsibilities include overseeing the operation of such key service facilities as the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre (GSMC) in France and the UK, the European GNSS Service Centre (GSC) in Spain and the Galileo Reference Centre (GRC) in the Netherlands. We are also charged with maximising Galileo adoption across user market segments, including positioning Galileo as the leading constellation in search and rescue beacons and making the Public Regulated Service (PRS) the service of choice for all authorised users.
In parallel with the development of the service provision, additional satellites will continue to be added to the Galileo constellation, allowing new services to become available. And here lies one of the key challenges we face, namely, the need to balance the development of the Galileo service provision with the need for continued programme deployment.
The end goal of all this work is to ensure that Galileo is positioned as the second GNSS constellation of choice (after GPS) by the time the system reaches full operational capability from 2020. The GSA is well positioned to oversee the ongoing investment in the research, technology and applications needed to achieve this goal.
In preparing for our new role, the GSA has leaned heavily on our strong track record and experience from our work with EGNOS, where we have been responsible for the programme’s service provision since 2014. We have also undergone a thorough internal assessment and a ramp up of our competence level, all in preparation for July 1, 2017 – the day we begin to put into practice everything that we have been working towards and usher in a new era for the Galileo programme.
Of course, this was accomplished with the help and support of our colleagues at the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA will remain in charge of the system activities and the deployment of the ground and space segments, while working closely with us for service provision. GSA is also integrating senior ESA expertise, bringing in their knowledge of the system and operations, to ensure that we can deliver high quality services to users.
*Carlo des Dorides is Executive Director of the European GNSS Agency (GSA)