Galileo pathfinder GIOVE-A achieves five years in orbit
ESA’s GIOVE-A satellite – the first prototype of Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system – is still working well after five years in space.
The first ‘Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element’, GIOVE-A, was launched on 28 December 2005 by a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, carrying a prototype rubidium atomic clock designed for the Galileo constellation.
It was joined on 27 April 2008 by GIOVE-B, equipped with an ultra-precise passive hydrogen maser design as well as a second rubidium clock. Operational Galileo satellites will carry both clock designs for maximum reliability.
“Both satellites had a design lifetime of 27 months each,” said Valter Alpe, managing GIOVE activities for ESA. “It is a pleasant surprise, therefore, to have GIOVE-A still fully operational after 60 months in orbit. GIOVE-B, meanwhile, is showing no sign of problems after 33 months in space.
ESA and prime contractor Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd of the UK completed GIOVE-A extremely quickly. From the contract signing in July 2003 to launch took less than two and a half years.
ESA and the European Commission needed to begin using the radio frequencies the International Telecommunications Union had provisionally allocated to Galileo to secure their future access.