Galileo Second Generation satellite render from Thales

Next Generation of Galileo Satellites is Quickly Taking Shape

Thales Alenia Space and Airbus have now both concluded critical design reviews, and the Galileo 2nd generation satellites are now being assembled for launch

With an increasing demand for precise positioning services, the European Union and ESA are busy developing the second generation of Galileo satellites (called G2G for short). The current constellation, built over the last decades and operating since 2017, has proven fundamental in bringing extra precision services to the European continent, rivaling the American GPS system, and the Russian Glonass. With the last ten 1st generation satellites ready to be launched, ESA is already projected to the future.

On May 14th, 2024, Thales Alenia Space, which is developing six of the total 12 new G2G satellites for 722 M€, announced the successful conclusion of the Satellite Critical Design Review board (SCDR). The board, comprised of 120 experts from all concerned development partners, had started their work in Rome on March 18th and concluded the CDR on April 17th at ESTEC, ESA’s technical center.

Rendering of Galileo satellites constellation. Credits: ESA
Rendering of Galileo satellites constellation. Credits: ESA

The Design Review considered various aspects of the new design: two main structural modules of the Galileo Satellites have been successfully certified to fly on the brand new Ariane 62, finally preparing for its first launch in the coming months. The results of the Engineering Satellite Model tests for radiated and conducted electromagnetic emissions were also examined as an integral part of the review and were deemed successful.

Thales now confirms that with the SCDR’s conclusion, the Galileo Second Generation flight models can finally begin assembly and integration in the last three months of 2024.The satellites will be launched over the coming years on the Ariane 6 rocket, while some of the current 1st generation satellites have been diverted to other launch providers, given Ariane’s development delays.


A robust Ground Segment for the Galileo Constellation

Another integral part of Thales’ efforts is towards the Galileo Ground Segment. The company has received additional funding for 300 M€, to develop the ground facilities and technology to optimize the coming constellation of new satellites. Thales is working with Leonardo and Telespazio to design the infrastructure and the System Engineering and Technical Assistance. The new system will permit more flexibility and stability for Galileo, making room for the extra-capable 2nd generation satellites.

The first phase of development is only addressed to the G2G satellites. Construction of the Ground Segment is almost complete, to be used in time for the launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) of G2G. In Thales’ press release, the company states its aim to conclude the Compatibility Test Campaigns of the Ground Segment by the end of 2024.

A large white antenna dish is pointing towards the sky in French Guyana. It's a new component of Galileo's Ground Segment
A new Ground Segment antenna recently built in Kourou. Credits: ESA/B. Nejad

The second phase of development will focus on enhancing the performance of the whole Galileo network, taking control of the legacy 1st generation satellites along with the newer ones. This way, Europe will further cement its high-precision GNSS.

Thales is also working on the Cybersecurity of the Galileo network, with 60 M€ assigned in two contracts from ESA. Protection from cyberattacks has become central in today’s geopolitical reality, and the Galileo constellation is therefore being upgraded to resist spoofing and other kinds of attacks. 


Two efforts for great innovation

The Galileo Second Generation project started in 2021 with the first round of funding of  1.47 million euros. The project was brought forward by the European Commission, from which it’s managed and funded today. ESA has been leading the main design efforts while the European Union Agency for the Space Program, EUSPA, has been managing the market and application needs of the first Galileo constellation for customers, and will continue with G2G.

The development of the twelve new satellites has been split between two leaders of the European Aerospace market: Thales, and Airbus Defence and Space. Airbus’ efforts have been as great as Thales’. Their satellites passed the CDR last year also starting flight hardware production in December of 2023.

Galileo Second Generation satellite structure inside an Airbus Defense and Space facility
A G2G satellite structure being assembled in the Friedrichshafen cleanroom. Credits: Airbus

The satellites will have differences, being manufactured and designed by different companies. However, the main design features and requirements will be the same. The 2nd generation Galileo satellites will be bigger and heavier than the current versions, bringing extra performance. They will feature electric propulsion for the first time and will be capable of communicating with each other, to relieve pressure on the Ground System, and maintain performance in case of issues on the ground.

With this new generation of satellites coming in the next few years and Ariane 6’s introduction, Europe will once again demonstrate its determination in the Aerospace industry, maintaining its relevance in the world’s space endeavors.


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Marco Guardabasso

Marco Guardabasso

Engineering student with a passion for space, photography and arranging music.

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