Today, 27-April-2008, Giove-B was launched succesfully!
You can watch the launch at:
The Giove-B satellite, which weight is only 500 kg, was lofted into a medium altitude orbit around the earth by a Soyuz/Fregat rocket departing from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by launch operator Starsem. Lift-off occurred at 04:16 local time on 27 April (00:16 Central European Summer Time). The Fregat upper stage performed a series of manoeuvres to reach a circular orbit at an altitude of about 23,200 km, inclined at 56 degrees to the Equator, before safely delivering the satellite into orbit some 3 hours and 45 minutes later. The two solar panels that generate electricity to power the spacecraft deployed correctly and were fully operational by 05:28 CEST.
Giove-B will continue the demonstration of critical technologies for the navigation payload of the future operational Galileo satellites. Like Giove-A, Giove-B carries two redundant small-size rubidium atomic clocks, each with a stability of 10 nanoseconds per day. But it also features an even more accurate payload: the Passive Hydrogen Maser (PHM), with stability better than 1 nanosecond per day. The first of its kind ever to be launched into space, this is now the most stable clock operating in earth orbit.
GIOVE-B also incorporates a radiation-monitoring payload to characterise the space environment at the altitude of the Galileo constellation, as well as a laser retroreflector for high-accuracy laser ranging. Signal generation units will provide representative Galileo signals on three separate frequencies broadcast via an L-band phase array antenna designed to entirely cover the visible earth below the satellite. The satellite is now under the control of Telespazio's spacecraft operations centre in Fucino, Italy, and in-orbit checking-out of the satellite has begun.
The next step in the Galileo programme will be the launch of the first four operational satellites, to validate the basic Galileo space and related ground segment, by 2010. Once that In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase is completed, the remaining satellites will be launched and deployed to reach the Full Operational Capability (FOC), a constellation of 30 identical satellites.
Galileo will be Europe's very own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civil control. It will be interoperable with the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia's GLONASS, the two other global satellite navigation systems. Galileo will deliver real-time positioning accuracy down to the metre range with unrivalled integrity. Numerous applications are planned for Galileo, including positioning and derived value-added services for transport by road, rail, air and sea, fisheries and agriculture, oil-prospecting, civil protection, building, public works and telecommunications.
I am looking forward to the first real observations from Giove-B and to compute its first accurate orbit and especially accurate clock corrections. The passive hydrogen maser is the real "special" that Giove-B offers. Accurate clocks in space may offer a substantial benefit in all areas of GNSS. For the work I do, high precission GNSS at the mm level, I hope that the accurate Galileo clocks will offer an accuracy improvement of a factor of at least two, maybe more....
As soon as I have some first results I will post a new Blog here.
For more general info on Giove-B and Galileo have a look at: