PARIS — The encrypted signals intended for use by European military and civil government authorities as part of Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system have been validated aboard the first two orbiting Galileo satellites, the German-Italian joint venture company managing the constellation’s operations announced April 2.

The Public Regulated Service (PRS) signals from the two Galileo test satellites launched in October 2011 were verified for their accuracy and stability by Spaceopal, a joint venture between Telespazio of Rome and the German Aerospace Center, DLR.

In an April 2 statement, Spaceopal said the performance verification tests with the two satellites and the control centers have now been completed. Two more Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites, identical to the first two, are scheduled for launch in 2012 aboard a European version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket. The first two Galileo satellites were on board the inaugural launch of Soyuz from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport in French Guiana in October.

PRS signals are intended to be similar to the M-code service to be provided by the U.S. GPS constellation. Like the M-Code, PRS will not be generally available to private-sector Galileo users, but will be reserved for use by European military forces, civil-protection agencies and authorized security organizations.

It remains unclear whether European Union users of PRS will need to pay a special fee to receive the encrypted data or will have unlimited free access to it. PRS in the past was a controversial part of Galileo as critics said its mere existence undermined the European system’s image as a nonmilitary network.

A prototype PRS receiver was developed earlier this year by Septentrio of Belgium and Qinetiq of Britain. Stationed at Telespazio’s Fucino, Italy, facility, the receiver successfully demonstrated the reception of PRS signals.

Galileo officials in the past have expressed concerns that China’s Beidou/Compass navigation constellation, which is now being placed into orbit and will achieve operational status before Galileo, operates a PRS-/Code-M-type signal on radio spectrum that partly overlays the PRS signal.

While this does not contravene any international radio frequency rules insofar as the two systems do not interfere with each other, it does mean that it will be difficult to jam the Chinese service without also jamming Galileo.

Spaceopal will operate the Galileo constellation from facilities in Fucino and at a DLR center in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, under a contract valued at 194 million euros ($252 million) and signed in October 2010.



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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.