On Thursday, December 2 (CET) another two Galileo navigation satellites will be launched from Kourou in French Guiana aboard a Soyuz rocket. This will raise the number of Galileo satellites in orbit from currently 26 to 28. All Galileo satellites use products from Beyond Gravity, a leading supplier to the space industry. “We have played an important role in building the European Galileo navigation system from day one,” says Luis De León Chardel, Executive Vice President at Beyond Gravity, which supplied a range of mission critical mechanical, thermal and electronics products to the satellite builder OHB System AG in Bremen, Germany.
“Brain” for Galileo satellites
Beyond Gravity supplied the onboard computer (“brain”) that controls and monitors the payload of the Galileo satellites and many other subsystems. The computer also monitors the satellite status, such as temperature, to ensure that the satellites are fully functional. Furthermore, Beyond Gravity delivered the mission antenna for the Galileo satellites. The antenna is used to upload mission data for the onboard signal generators. “This data is used to improve the satellite’s position, which is essential for everyone to have good positioning data for your phone, car or clock,” explains Anders Linder, Head of the global satellites business of Beyond Gravity.
Thermal insulation (“coat”) and mechanism
Once in orbit the Galileo satellites are protected from the 400 degrees Celsius temperature-differences it would experience on their hot sun-facing side and cold space-looking side by a thermal insulation (“coat”) from Beyond Gravity. This highly efficient insulation consists of several layers of metal-evaporated polyimide film. The sun is also the main power source of the satellites in orbit. To optimally align the solar array panels towards the sun rotating drive mechanisms are necessary. Beyond Gravity produced these mechanisms for the Galileo satellites.
Beyond Gravity dispenser places Galileo satellites in orbit
The European Galileo satellites will be sent to space with a Sojuz rocket. The dispenser from Beyond Gravity is a supporting structure that will hold the twin satellites firmly in place under the Soyuz fairing during launch. “The dispenser will help the satellites endure the loads and vibrations of launch,” says Holger Wentscher, Head of the launcher business at Beyond Gravity. Then, some four hours into flight at an altitude of 23000 km, the dispenser will deploy the satellites into orbit by firing a pyrotechnic separation system. A distancing system ensures their release in opposing directions from the dispenser. The dispenser has a structural mass of 150 kg. It carries and separates two Galileo satellites – each one weighing 700 kg – into orbit. Since around 40 years Beyond Gravity develops and produces separation systems at its site in Linköping, Sweden. Dispenser systems from Beyond Gravity are especially suitable for spacecraft constellations, where a large number of spacecrafts need to be placed in orbit in a short time frame.
Galileo provides global positioning, navigation and timing
The European Navigation System Galileo, also dubbed the “European GPS”, is created by the European Union through the European Space Agency (ESA) and operated by the European Union Agency for the Space Program. Galileo is a civil satellite navigation system that provides global positioning, navigation and timing. With at least four satellites constantly visible to the user, positioning becomes much more accurate than with previous systems, down to a meter.
Finding lost persons within 10 minutes
The Galileo system also provides a new global search and rescue service, which will be used for locating distressed people, e.g. a person lost in the desert, which needs to be located. Beyond Gravity contributes electronics to this Galileo search and rescue service. When Galileo search and rescue is in full operation, the time to detect a person who has disappeared at sea or in the mountains will be shortened from three hours to just ten minutes after activating an emergency transmitter.