Article
Spotlight on ESA Navigation Support Office
April 19, 2017845

The European Space Agency (ESA) Navigation Support Office (NavSO), housed at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, generates satellite navigation products and services for ESA missions and for third-party customers, and strongly supports Europe’s global navigation satellite system programs: Galileo and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). In line with these activities, ESOC is a founding member of the International GNSS Service (IGS) and contributes across the full spectrum of IGS services.

As a Station-Operating Agency, the Navigation Support Office owns and operates 10 GNSS signal receivers in the IGS network and additional receivers in ESOC’s growing global GNSS sensor station network. Further, NavSO (around 30 experts) receives and processes data from over 600 stations in the IGS network to build its capabilities for providing high-accuracy navigation and satellite geodesy services. NavSO processes these data, along with data from other stations, to estimate and predict highly accurate Galileo, GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou and QZSS satellite orbits, clocks and related products – all in near-real time, 24 hours per day, year-round. These products, which make use of data made available through IGS, are then used within a variety of sophisticated applications, including scientific studies, large-scale climate monitoring, ionosphere monitoring and tracking of long-term changes in Earth’s geology.

In its role as an IGS Analysis Center, the Navigation Support Office contributes to all IGS products. In addition, NavSO actively participates in many of the IGS Working Groups, chairs the IGS Infrastructure Committee, and is home to the IGS Real Time Service (RTS) Analysis Center Coordinator. Within the RTS, NavSO generates two real-time orbit and clock solutions as well as one of the official combination products for the service. (Learn more about latest developments in the IGS Real Time Service on IGS Presents.)

By working with the IGS Real-Time Working Group, NavSO is able to play a role in formulating global open formats and standards for real time and batch GNSS processing. This is done through collaboration with the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM), the leading body for differential GNSS standards and protocols. NavSO is continuing on this collaborative theme in a new initiative with the International Committee on GNSS (ICG), which will see NavSO serve as the Analysis Center Coordinator for the International GNSS Monitoring and Assessment (IGMA) activity.

Beyond navigation satellites, NavSO is a leading European center for the precise orbit determination (POD) of satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) and medium Earth orbit (MEO). This orbit determination is achieved primarily using GNSS measurements, augmented by satellite laser ranging (SLR), Doppler measurements from the French DORIS system and altimetry measurements. Centimeter-level accuracies are possible using a fusion of these measurement types, an analysis made possible by specialized software developed within NavSO. In this context, IGS data is currently used and products from the IGS Real-Time Service are foreseen to be incorporated.

With these and many other activities, participation in the IGS helps ESA’s Navigation Support Office in its mission to be at the forefront of space-based navigation.

IGS Spotlights are a collaborative effort between the IGS Central Bureau and IGS contributing organizations. The Central Bureau gratefully acknowledges the collaboration and contribution of the ESA Navigation Support Office, led by IGS Governing Board member Prof. Dr. Werner Enderle, as well as Daniel Scuka of the ESA Communication Department and Adam Vigneron of the ESA ESOC NavSO.

Image: ESA’s satellite operations control facilities include the Main Control Room at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany (shown here), dedicated control rooms for specific missions and Estrack, the worldwide ground tracking station network. Credit: ESA/J. Mai

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Please include the IGS logo and citation in all websites, presentations, publications, or posters that use IGS data, products, or services. IGS is a service of IAG.