Sitting in the cleanroom environment of ESA’s ESTEC technology centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, the satellite was last week linked to a trio of sites across the continent: the Galileo control centres in Fucino, Italy and Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, as well as ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
“These System Compatibility Test Campaigns (STSCs) occur on a regular basis,” explained Liviu Stefanov, lead Flight Operations Director for the next Galileo launch in May.
“Last December saw a campaign using one of the two Galileo satellites due to be launched in May, while our February rehearsal used another satellite from the quadruplet being launched by Ariane 5 later this year.
“So with this most recent task, we have reached a frequency of three system tests in less than four months.”
A joint team from ESA and France’s CNES space agency oversee Galileo’s Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOP) – the initial switching on and checking and configuration of satellite systems. LEOP is run from either ESOC or CNES Toulouse, on an alternating basis.
ESOC will host the LEOP team for the next launch of two Galileo satellites by Soyuz from French Guiana in May. Then the team will switch to Toulouse for the first launch of four Galileo satellites by Ariane 5, scheduled for this autumn.
Liviu added: “From our point of view, this SCTC was a useful final opportunity to try out communications with a satellite that is actually due to fly, before our next Galileo LEOP takes place for real.
“It is the last end-to-end test of the ground segment with a real satellite before the launch.”
“Communicating with and controlling satellites still on the ground is one of the essential exercises the LEOP team has to perform before launch,” said Christelle Crozat, lead Spacecraft Operations Manager for the next LEOP.