On 20 August, the European Space Agency [ESA], acting on behalf of the European Commission, and Arianespace convened at the Guiana Space Center, European spaceport, to sign a contract for three launch services with Ariane 5 ES in order to step up the deployment of the European navigation system Galileo, the European Union’s flagship program.
With this new launch contract, a total of 12 Galileo Full Operational Capability [FOC] satellites will be launched using three dedicated Ariane 5 ES launch-vehicles, each carrying four satellites. The launches will take place from 2015 onwards.
Arianespace will be responsible for ensuring all of the 22 FOC satellites manufactured by the German group OHB System alongside the British company Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd are taken into circular orbit at an altitude of 23,522 km using a combination of five Soyuz launch-vehicles (two satellites per launch) and three Ariane 5 ES launch-vehicles (four satellites per launch). The 22 operational satellites will join the four In-Orbit Validation [IOV] satellites launched by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center back in 2011 and 2012.
Furthermore, Arianespace and its subsidiary Starsem were responsible for launching in 2005 and 2008 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the initial satellites in the Galileo constellation, Giove-A and Giove-B, which were able to secure the frequencies allocated to the constellation.
Once the system is fully deployed and operational, data provided by Galileo satellites can be used in a wide number of areas to improve quality of life and business across Europe, for example to avoid car crashes, help visually and motor impaired people navigate, transport dangerous goods, survey costal water depth and intelligent salt-spreading during the winter. Other examples include helping navigate ships through narrow channels, enhancing transport logistical operations, and improving the speed of emergency services responses in critical situations.
On 22 August, Galileo satellites 5 and 6 were delivered into the wrong orbit. Following this anomaly, the teams of industries and agencies involved in the early operations of the satellites started to investigate the potential implications on the mission. Further information on the status of the satellites will be made available after the preliminary analysis of the situation.
Read complete information about the European Galileo Mission on the ESA website.