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GIOVE-A: The Mission

GIOVE-A: The Mission

GIOVE-A, based on the SSTL-900 platform, was developed by SSTL for the European Space Agency to secure the Galileo frequency filings at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). 

The satellite also played a crucial role as the test-bed for the Galileo payload units, providing a representative signal-in-space for ground-based experimentation with Galileo signals as well as characterising the radiation environment for the Medium Earth Orbit used by all future Galileo satellites.

The satellite was designed, built and tested in a rapid 30 month programme and launched on schedule on 28th December 2005, allowing ESA to claim the frequency filings for the Galileo programme three months before the licence expired. 

On the 2nd May 2007 GIOVE-A successfully transmitted the first European navigation message from space, containing the information needed by users' receivers to calculate their position

In 2012 SSTL's experimental GPS receiver on-board GIOVE-A successfully achieved a GPS position fix at 23,300km altitude - the first position fix above the GPS constellation on a civilian satellite.

GPS is routinely used via Low Earth Orbit satellites to provide the orbital position and offer a source of time to the satellite.  Spacecraft in orbits higher than the 20,000km of the GPS constellation however can only receive a few of the signals that "spill over" from the far side of the Earth, meaning that the signals are much weaker and a position fix cannot always be secured.

With the support of ESA and the ARTES programme of funding, SSTL included the SGR-GEO receiver on the GIOVE-A satellite to prove that a receiver could achieve a position fix from a higher orbit.  The SGR-GEO is adapted from SSTL's SGR range of receivers and incorporates a high-gain antenna and a precise oven-controlled clock.  It demonstrates special algorithms to allow reception of weak signals and an orbit estimator intended to allow a near continuous position fix throughout orbit. 

Despite the satellite physically being very different to all previous SSTL spacecraft, and operating in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) (as opposed to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) where all previous SSTL missions have operated), GIOVE-A was designed using SSTL's standard core approaches and standards, and even employs some COTs (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) based subsystems which commonly feature on our small LEO satellites.

GIOVE-A was designed and sized for a 27 month mission. Although still operational, it was officially retired on 30th June 2012 , having been successfully operating for much more than double its design life.  The spacecraft has continued to be used for testing, including SSTL's SGR-GEO GPS receiver.  

Satellite Data



In-orbit test-bed for Galileo navigation signals



Launch Data

Launch Date:
28 December 2005

Launch Site:
Baikonur, Kazakhstan