After the successful launch of the first two Galileo satellites – named Natalia and Thijs – on 21 October 2011, responsibility for control and monitoring of the satellites was handed over to the Galileo Control Centre of DLR GfR (Gesellschaft für Raumfahrtanwendungen) today, 4 November 2011.
Following the release of the satellites from the upper stage of the rocket, the satellites were taken over from the operations team at the control centre in Toulouse for initial testing and to position them in their orbit during the LEOP (Launch and Early Operations) phase, which lasted until 2 November.
Galileo main control room at DLR GfR
The handover of the satellites was carried out in two stages. After a coordination period of several hours between the teams in the control centres in Oberpfaffenhofen and Toulouse, full control of the first satellite was successfully taken over by the Oberpfaffenhofen team on 2 November. The second satellite followed on 3 November.
A challenging and exciting time lies ahead for the team of experts at the Oberpfaffenhofen control centre. After an intensive training and simulation programme prior to the launch, the members of the DLR GfR team are very well prepared for their upcoming tasks.
First of all, the individual satellite components, such as temperature regulation, propulsion systems and energy supply, will be extensively tested and more than 10,000 parameters monitored around the clock. During contact with the satellites via the antenna stations in Kourou and Kiruna, the operations team will load control instructions into the central computer of the satellites which will then be implemented on board the satellites.
This test stage is followed by the switch on of the payload and broadcasting of the first navigation signals, representing another significant milestone for the Galileo navigation system. The signals are measured by an antenna station in Redu and the data is analysed by experts at DLR GfR. The measuring phase will last three months, after which the satellites can be transferred to routine operations and preparations for the launch of the next two satellites, planned for the third quarter of 2012, will start.
Entrance to the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen
By 2015, a total of 18 satellites will be controlled by the DLR GfR team and the first navigation services made available. The full Galileo constellation of 30 satellites will be in place by 2018. DLR GfR and the control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen have a crucial role throughout the deployment phase and during the subsequent continuous operating period. This promises a further increase in staff and secure business operations.
Galileo is a joint initiative between the European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA).