The DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen

New additions to the navigation system will provide almost complete global coverage from mid-2018

The Galileo satellites 'Nicole', 'Zofia', 'Alexandre' and 'Irina' are in Earth orbit

13 December 2017

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  • StartGalileo1922_sn.jpg
    Lift off of Ariane 5 launcher with four Galileo satellites on board

    On 12 December 2017 at 19:36 Central European Time, an Ariane 5 launcher lifted off from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana). On board were four new satellites of the European Galileo satellite system.

  • GalileoVackumtest_sn.jpg
    Vacuum test of Galileo satellite

    The Galileo satellites undergo a fortnight of tests in the vacuum chamber of ESA's technology centre in Noordwijk (Netherlands) before they travel to Europe's Spaceport in Kourou (French Guinana).

  • 4GalileosAriane5_sn.jpg
    Galileo satellites atop an Ariane 5 rocket

    A specially modified Ariane 5ES rocket can house four Galileo satellites. The satellites will subsequently enter orbit at an altitude of 23,222 kilometres.

  • GalileoFlotteOHB_sn.jpg
    The Galileo fleet in space

    In 2020 Galileo will consist of 30 satellites (24 operational and six spares) and will offer a full range of positioning, navigational and time services.

  • Four new satellites of the European Galileo satellite navigation system have been successfully launched on board an Ariane 5 launcher.
  • From mid-2018, 'Nicole', 'Zofia', 'Alexandre' and 'Irina' will allow almost complete global coverage using Galileo signals.
  • The next launch of four additional satellites is planned for July 2018.
  • Focus: Space, navigation

On 12 December 2017 at 19:36 Central European Time (15:36 local time), the 'Nicole', 'Zofia', 'Alexandre' and 'Irina' satellites of the European Galileo satellite navigation system were launched to space on board an Ariane 5 launcher from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. This was the second successful launch of the specially modified Ariane-5ES version, on which four Galileo satellites, each weighing around 715 kilograms, can be transported simultaneously, an will eventually be placed in a 23,222-kilometre-high orbit. "The satellites will now undergo six months of commissioning in space before being integrated into the navigation system," explains René Kleeßen, Galileo Programme Manager at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Space Administration. "From mid-2018, almost complete global coverage using Galileo signals will be possible."

The satellite test phase in space will last around six months

The Ariane launcher flew for three hours and 55 minutes before all four satellites were put into middle Earth orbit. During the first seven to 11 days in space, they will be controlled from the control centre of the French space agency CNES in Toulouse, before the Galileo control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen takes over. "After that, we will enter the exciting phase of platform tests, their final positioning, and the testing and commissioning of the payload," says Marko Schmidt, Galileo Project Manager of DLR GfR mbH. "At the end of this important phase, we will be able to safely integrate the satellites into our fleet and this will make an additional, important contribution to a globally-available European satellite navigation system."

The next four satellites will be launched in July 2018

With the new additions, the Galileo fleet has now grown to 22 satellites – and will soon be expanded, as the next launch of four additional satellites is planned for July 2018. Thanks to the new option of a quadruple launch using the specially optimised Ariane-5ES, the expansion of the system is now striding ahead. The European Commission announced the launch of initial Galileo services on 15 December 2016. These included open services, the search-and-rescue service, the PRS encrypted service and a highly-accurate time service that works in the nanosecond range. Currently, these services are still in the initial phase, which means that they are highly accurate but are not yet universally accessible. All Galileo services should be available after complete commissioning in 2020, when the network will comprise 30 satellites (24 active and six replacement satellites), each of which should have a service life in space of around 12 years.

Galileo – a key programme for European aerospace

The aim of the civil Galileo system is to make Europe independent of the military-controlled navigation services of the USA (GPS) and Russia (GLONASS) and to provide navigation signals with unprecedented accuracy. This accuracy is facilitated by the heart of the satellites: highly accurate atomic clocks with a stability of one nanosecond per day. The satellites also contain a signal-generating unit and a unit for transmitting the signals to the ground receivers. Even today, many industrial sectors such as transport, logistics, telecommunications and energy already rely on accurate location, navigation and time services such as these. Due to the continually increasing fields of application, the Galileo satellites will play an even more important role in the future. Galileo has a huge market potential, particularly in the transportation area.

he construction phase of Galileo is commissioned, financed and executed by the European Commission. On their behalf, the European Space Agency ESA negotiates the industrial contracts for the development and construction of the system. Thirty-four satellites from the first three satellite contracts in the construction phase were built by OHB AG in Bremen. The two Galileo control centres are located at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen and in Toulouse (CNES).

Last modified:
13/12/2017 16:04:54



Diana Gonzalez
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) - German Aerospace Center

Corporate Communications

Tel.: +49 228 447-388

Fax: +49 228 447-386
René Kleeßen
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Space Administration, Navigation

Tel.: +49 228 447-555

Fax: +49 228 447-703
Marko Schmidt
DLR Gesellschaft für Raumfahrtanwendungen (GfR) mbH

Galileo Project Manager

Tel.: +49 8153 28-3780