Spirent circle logo

From GSTB to OSNMA and on to G2G: Celebrating 20 Years of Galileo Development


As the ecosystem embarks on the Galileo Second Generation (G2G), we review 20 years of Europe’s GNSS – and Spirent’s role in its evolution.

In 2021, Europe’s civilian global navigation satellite system (GNSS), Galileo, is set to achieve two historic milestones in the development of satellite-based navigation.

The introduction of Open Signal Navigation Message Authentication (OSNMA), which has just entered the Public Observation Test Phase, will mark the first time a free-to-use satellite navigation signal has incorporated a signal authentication service to protect civilian users from accidental or malicious spoofing.

Also under development is the Galileo High Accuracy Service (HAS), another free-to-use service that increases horizontal position accuracy to 2-decimetre levels by providing real-time error corrections for the transmitted signal.

As a GNSS designed as a civilian resource as much as a military one, Galileo is addressing evolving commercial and government demand for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services. PNT accuracy and integrity have become essential for everything from surveying and construction to energy grid management and autonomous transport, and Galileo is aiming to meet that demand with OSNMA and HAS.

Beyond OSNMA and HAS, there is still further first-generation Galileo (G1) evolution to come. Current innovation efforts include Search and Rescue (SAR) Evolution, new developments on the Commercial Authentication Service (CAS) as well as an initial implementation of an Emergency Warning Service (EWS).

In parallel to the G1 innovation, there is a flurry of activity on G2G which targets a service portfolio that meets the needs of the internet of things, safety-critical and liability-critical transport, autonomous vehicles, and critical infrastructure. The core principles of service continuity, backward compatibility, and learning lessons from the first generation lay the foundations for the success of G2G.

Twenty years of GNSS innovation

These new services build on a growing legacy that has developed over the past 20 years. Since 2001, the Galileo project has brought together Europe’s leading engineering minds and technologies to ensure the success of its planning, testing, launch and operational phases.

As development of the new constellation got underway in 2001, for example, Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) began work on the GalileoNAV programme. With Spirent’s GNSS simulators chosen to support aspects of this programme, DLR were able to lay groundwork for some key aspects of the initial Galileo System Test Bed (GSTB). These included projects such as the Atmospheric Performance Assessment Facility (APAF) and the Galileo Integrated Receiver for Safety of Life Equipment (GIRASOLE).

Early days: Research, development, and in-orbit validation

Many major projects were initiated as the Galileo programme gathered momentum in the early years of the new millennium. 2006 was a pivotal year, with soon-to-be-merged ESA contractors Alcatel Alenia Space and Thales coming together to develop the Galileo Ground Receiver Chain (GRC) and Test User Receiver (TUR) – two elements were that would play a critical role in the development of the Galileo ground and user segments during the system’s R&D and in-orbit validation (IOV) phases.

Realistic Galileo signal simulation was an essential requirement for the development and testing of these two projects. Spirent multi-GNSS and Galileo simulators were selected as the reference test equipment for certification, for their ability to accurately re-create all Galileo frequencies and services, including the Open Service, Commercial Service, Safety-of-Life (SoL) and Public Regulated Service (PRS).

The same year saw the creation of the European Test Centre for Receiver Performance Evaluation (EUTERPE). This test centre was set up to meet growing industry demand for independent validation and benchmarking of Galileo and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) receivers.

Spirent simulators were chosen as the foundation of the test bed, allowing manufacturers and integrators to test the performance of Galileo and EGNOS receivers according to a defined test plan, and compare the performance of different receivers during selection.

Development of the Public Regulated Service (PRS)

One critical service offered by Galileo is the Public Regulated Service (PRS), an encrypted signal for use by authorised European military forces and government agencies to provide advanced protection against jamming and spoofing threats.

Testing of PRS and the equipment that uses it requires accurate, realistic simulation of the encrypted signal. Leading the way on this since its inception, we developed our SimPRS firmware and control software to enable faithful replication of PRS for authorised users.

When the UK’s departure from the European Union was set in motion in 2016, we worked with our German partner Fraunhofer IIS to ensure continuity of provision of PRS for the Spirent core simulator platforms through the Fraunhofer IIS prs[ware] product line.

Moving towards early and full operational capability

As Galileo moved from IOV towards early operational capability (EOC), ESA again sought the support of contractors to assure the day-to-day performance of the system and the receivers that depend on it.

As ESA’s chosen provider of Systems Support for the full operational capability (FOC) phase, Thales Alenia Space (TAS) Italy assumed responsibility for ongoing systems support for the Galileo constellation, ahead of the move to the initial operation of the constellation in 2016. Once again, Spirent multi-GNSS simulators were chosen to by TAS to meet their demanding accuracy, flexibility and reliability requirements for them to fulfil their program responsibilities - which included ensuring ground to space compatibility for Galileo’s ground, space and test user segments.

Innovation has been a central theme of the Galileo project throughout its existence, with ESA and its development partners working on a multitude of ground-breaking projects – from the AGGA-4 chip for long-duration GEO/LEO receivers, to the hybrid navigation systems on board ESA satellite launchers.

More recent projects have included the development and rollout of the eCall emergency call system. Now installed as standard in vehicles sold within the European Union, eCall relies on a precise position from Galileo and EGNOS to direct emergency responders to the location of a collision or other serious incident.

In the background of all these projects and many more, Spirent simulators were instrumental in testing and verifying systems and applications.

2021 onwards: Into a future of high-integrity, high-accuracy PNT

Today, 20 years after the commencement of the GSTB project, the ecosystem and its contractors continue to innovate and add new value for Galileo users. In 2018, for example, Qascom was appointed the lead contractor on the OSNMA PATROL project, under which it is helping to define the OSNMA signal authentication service designed to protect Galileo receivers against signal spoofing.

To support testing of OSNMA receivers, Qascom experts worked with Spirent to develop the first commercially available SimOSNMA software and scenario packs based on an early version of the ICD (v1.1) for use with Spirent GSS7000 and GSS9000 series simulators. The combination of Qascom expertise and Spirent capabilities enables early adopters to test OSNMA signals and features in a controlled and repeatable environment.

At the same time, the Galileo teams are working towards the operational introduction of the High Accuracy Service (HAS), which incorporates precise point positioning (PPP) error correction to bring horizontal positioning accuracy into the 2-decimetre range for HAS-capable receivers.

With applications such as precision agriculture and autonomous vehicle navigation requiring highly accurate positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), HAS will enable compatible receivers to compute an accurate position without the need for an additional error correction service. Here too, Spirent has been first to launch a commercially available simulation solution via a beta ICD implementation based on ICD version 1.2. This early release was enabled through a technical collaboration with GMV who has been awarded with a contract for the implementation of the Galileo High Accuracy Data Generator (HADG) by EUPA in early 2021.

A continuing partnership as Galileo evolves into a new generation

Galileo is a 20+ year project that has been characterised from the start by collaboration, innovation, and engineering excellence in response to evolving market demand. This project continues with the design and launch of G2G, with initial operational capability expected from 2027 and full operational capability from 2030.

Spirent has been privileged to play a key role in the constellation’s evolution over the past 20 years, from early development and testing of the system segments, through in-orbit validation, to the transition to full operational capability.

Now, as the advent of G2G brings greater capabilities and use cases for the Galileo constellation, Spirent systems will continue to be found behind those new and evolving technologies. With many of the simulators we initially supplied still in daily use across the Galileo project base, we look forward to many more years of collaboration and co-operation on Galileo initiatives.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about Spirent’s test and measurement solutions for Galileo receivers and systems - including OSNMA and HAS - please do get in touch.

Like our content?

Subscribe to our blogs here.

Blog Newsletter Subscription

Jan Ackermann

Director of Product Line Management

Jan Ackermann is the Director of Product Line Management at Spirent Communications Position, Navigation and Timing Business Unit.  Jan holds a master’s degree in engineering having studied both in the US and Germany. He has worked within the global Automotive, Government and Wireless Technology Markets.