The Italian company Leonardo will be responsible for the production of the technological heart of the Second Generation Galileo satellites, which will replace those currently in Earth orbit, now underway at the end of their operational life. Among the fundamental components of the satellites are the innovative atomic clocks: hydrogen devices capable of maintaining absolute precision for the location of ground services.
Leonardo‘s atomic clocks – also called PHM (Passive Hydrogen Maser) – are the best in the world and the most accurate ever made for space applications. In fact, they accumulate an error of one second every three million years and it is precisely this characteristic that makes Galileo’s satellites superior to others, boasting an accuracy of about 30 cm on the ground. Leonardo – which has already worked on over 70 watches for the first generation of Galileo – will provide two masers for each new satellite. The contract was awarded by the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) and the first 12 units will be delivered in 2023.
The atomic clocks made in Italy will be produced in the Nerviano (Milan) plant, where Leonardo will need to expand the production capacity of the area dedicated to their development to ensure that two clocks are produced every six weeks. Two shielded chambers will be added, two external thermo-vacuum chambers, an area for perserving and storing watches on the ground, and one dedicated to testing and integrating electronic boards. In line with the strategic plan “Be Tomorrow – Leonardo 2030″, everything will be achieved by minimizing waste by promoting efficiency and sustainability of production.
“Proud of this success, we are constantly working to develop increasingly efficient, compact and precise watches for satellite navigation on our planet and, one day, on the moon or on Mars” said Giovanni Fuggetta, Head of the Business Area Space in Leonardo’s Electronics Division.
Leonardo is a key partner for Galileo and, in addition to making the hydrogen atomic clocks, provides a decisive contribution to the space and terrestrial segments of the program: six of the twelve second-generation satellites will be built by Thales Alenia Space, while Telespazio hosts the Center Spaziale del Fucino one of the control centers of the entire system.