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July 5th, 2012
Galileo Pathfinder GIOVE-A Retires

The first ‘Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element’, GIOVE-A, was launched on 28th December 2005 by Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, securing vital frequency filings with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on the 12th  January 2006 that enabled the satellite navigation programme to proceed.

GIOVE-A was completed by SSTL within a record 27-month schedule from contract to launch for a budget of Euro 28m.  Its original mission was extended, having already outlived its 27 month design life and been declared a full mission success by ESA in 2008.  

The main objectives of the GIOVE-A mission were the on-board characterisation of a highly accurate prototype rubidium atomic clock, modeling the Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) radiation environment and the possible effects of radiation on future Galileo spacecraft, and of course the generation of the first Galileo navigation signals in space.

Those Galileo test signals from GIOVE-A have proved a very useful resource for manufacturers of Galileo receivers worldwide, allowing them to easily test their designs against a realistic version of the final Galileo navigation signal.  Now more than six years after launch, SSTL’s operations team finally switched off the Galileo payload on 30th June.

The spacecraft has been manoeuvred about 100 kilometers higher than its operating orbit of 23,222 kilometers to make way for the first 22 Fully Operational Capability (FOC) satellites that are now being completed by OHB Technology and SSTL. The satellite remains operational and will still be maintained from SSTL’s Mission Control Centre in Guildford, during which time SSTL will continue to collect data on the radiation environment in MEO.

To find out more about GIOVE-A visit:

This document has been produced under funding of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union and/or ESA. The Full Operational Capability phase of the Galileo programme is managed and fully funded by the European Commission. The Commission and ESA have signed a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission. “Galileo” is a trademark subject to OHIM application number 002742237 by EU and ESA.

About SSTL
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) is the world’s leading small satellite company, delivering operational space missions for a range of applications including Earth observation, science and communications. The Company designs, manufactures and operates high performance satellites and ground systems for a fraction of the price normally associated with space missions, with over 400 staff working on turnkey satellite platforms, space-proven satellite subsystems and optical instruments.
Since 1981 SSTL has built and launched 36 satellites – as well as providing training and development programmes, consultancy services, and mission studies for ESA, NASA , international governments and commercial customers, with its innovative approach that is changing the economics of space.
Based in Guildford, UK, SSTL is owned by Astrium, an EADS company.