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The European Satellite Navigation System is being expanded with 12 new satellites after the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that it has awarded Thales Alenia Space (Italy) and Airbus Defence & Space (Germany) two similar contracts worth a total of €1.5Bn to build two independent satellite families with a total of 12 second-generation GALILEO satellites. The contracts could only be signed now, after an appeal against the award was rejected by the courts.

GALILEO is Europe’s civilian global satellite navigation constellation, currently the most precise satellite navigation system in the world, providing metre-scale accuracy to more than two billion users around the globe. With improved accuracy, the new generation should be able to provide decimetre-scale precision positioning to all users. These second generation GALILEO satellites (G2) will revolutionise the fleet. They complement the 26 first-generation GALILEO satellites in orbit today and the 12 “Batch 3” satellites currently in production and testing. The first launch of these Batch 3 satellites will take place later this year. The new G2 satellites are being built to a short timescale, with their first launch expected in less than four years, so that they can begin operations in space as soon as possible.

Gerhard Heiming