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New monitoring facility ready for European navigation system

On Wednesday 6 April, ASTRON, in cooperation with S&T, the Technical University of Delft and TNO, will demonstrate the first qualified monitoring facility for the Galileo navigation system to the Italian space agency Thales Alenia Space (“TAS-I”) and to the European Space Agency (ESA). The Galileo navigation system is the European counterpart of the American GPS system. The system that ASTRON now produces is an important building block for Galileo, because it delivers critical information about the accuracy of Galileo to TAS-I and ESA. The extremely sensitive Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) is highly suitable to measure Galileo signals for this purpose.

Published by the editorial team, 5 April 2011

Since the beginning of 2007, a consortium led by ASTRON is working on a “Signal-in-Space Monitoring Facility” (SMF) in the Westerbork telescope to validate the signal properties and navigation data of the first four Galileo satellites. The signals transmitted by Galileo fall into the L-band, the frequency band where the telescope is most sensitive. The Westerbork telescope is a very sensitive instrument and leading in its class for receiving radio emissions for astronomical research. Radio interference caused by people has to be avoided as much as possible. It is therefore a beautiful cooperation that allows the telescope to be the first facility to characterise properties of the radio emissions of the Galileo satellites.

The high gain of the 25-meter dish antenna and the low noise of the cooled front-end provide an excellent signal-to-noise ratio for an accurate determination of the signal properties. The high directivity of the antenna also assures that only the signals from the satellite under test are received.

The consortium will complete the formal delivery of SMF with a demonstration on April 6 and a training on April 7 to TAS-I. TAS-I, in turn, is subcontractor of ESA for the Galileo System Environment Emulator of which SMF is a part. In the current planning, the first two Galileo satellites will be launched in August 2011. The second set of satellites will be launched a few months later.

For more information, please contact:

Femke Boekhorst, PR & Communication. Tel.: +31 521 595 204. E-mail:

Truus van den Brink. Tel.: +31 521 595 144. E-mail:



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