Two more Galileo sateliites entered orbit earlier this week, bringing the total number in orbit to 14 of a planned 30.
When complete, the system will end Europe's reliance on the US-run GPS system for highly accurate navigation and location data. Here are seven fascinating facts about the project that you may not have known.
1. Galileo will not be controlled by the military
The US GPS and Russian GLONASS systems are both at the whim of the nation's military agencies. This means that in a time of conflict the accuracy of the information could be degraded, or the entire service removed. The Galileo system will be under full civilian control, meaning that it cannot be removed during times of war.
2. Galileo will deliver location data accurate to within centimetres
The European Space Agency has already seen results accurate to 10-15 metres with four satellites in operation. Once all 30 are in orbit this will improve even further and commercial navigation offerings will be accurate to mere centimetres.
3. China has funded the project
The EC signed a deal with China in 2003 to work together on the development of Galileo, and China stumped up €230m as part of the agreement.
4. Each satellite contains two atomic clocks
Satellite navigation relies on highly accurate time data, and the ESA has included two clocks in each satellite that are accurate to 0.45 nanoseconds over 12 hours or 1.8 nanoseconds over 12 hours.
However, even with this accuracy the clocks will eventually become so inaccurate as to be unusable. So they will be synchronised to the ground-based Galileo System Time (GST) which is accurate to 28 nanoseconds.
5. Each satellite is named after a child who won a drawing competition
The UK’s satellite will be called Patrick. Ireland’s is called Adam and Austria’s is called Nicole. You can see all the winners on the EC website. V3’s favourite is by Antonianna from Italy (pictured below).
6. The satellites will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 23,222km
This means it will take around 14 hours to complete a full circuit of the planet.
7. Antarctica will host a Galileo ground-based system
EU nations own numerous random locations around the globe, and sites as far afield as Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and Svalbard will host ground-based infrastructure to support the satellites, as the map below shows.
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