The GIOVE-B navigation satellite completed its first year in orbit.
That 500 kg (1,102 pound) satellite, built by an industrial team led by Astrium under contract to the European Space Agency, is the second of two in-orbit demonstration missions for Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system.
Galileo will compete with the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, the Russian Glonass, and the Chinese Compass system.
GIOVE-B was launched into a Medium Earth Orbit on board a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 27 last year. After completing an in-orbit test campaign, the satellite was declared fully operational in July.
Since then, GIOVE-B has been broadcasting its navigation test signals around the Earth to ground receivers, allowing engineers and researchers to perform long-term measurements of the signal quality.
Notably, GIOVE-B is the first satellite to transmit the Multiplexed Binary Offset Coding modulation standard from space, thus paving the way for its future roll-out on Galileo.
The GIOVE-B satellite carries three high-precision atomic clocks, including a passive hydrogen maser – the most accurate time reference ever orbited in space, with an accuracy of better than 1 nanosecond per day.
Astrium was the prime contractor and navigation payload lead for GIOVE-B in Germany and the U.K. respectively. Thales Alenia Space (Italy) provided the support for satellite assembly, integration and test.
Galileo is a joint European Space Agency and European Union program that will boast a constellation of 30 dedicated satellites coupled with an associated ground support network offering users satellite navigation with a positioning accuracy of less than a meter (3.281 feet). Galileo is due to become fully operational in 2013.