EU, SpaceX finalizing plan to launch Galileo satellites

November 14, 2023  - By
Image: ESA

Image: ESA

The European Union is in the final stages of completing a deal with SpaceX to launch four Galileo navigation satellites in 2024, reported SpaceNews.

In press briefings during the European Space Summit in Seville, Spain, Thierry Breton, the European Commission’s commissioner for the internal market, said that he was “finalizing the discussions” for a pair of Falcon 9 launches, each carrying two Galileo satellites, tentatively scheduled for April and July of 2024.

Brenton also said that the final obstacle to completing the launch contract was negotiating a security agreement to protect sensitive technologies on the Galileo satellites, which previously had been launched from the European spaceport in French Guiana, when those satellites are being prepared for launch from the United States.

The launch contract itself was completed in July, Breton noted, and that the European Commission had approved a European Space Agency proposal to use the Falcon 9 for launching those satellites. He said the European Commission would spend $192 million on the Falcon 9 launches.

During a recent meeting of the European Space Agency (ESA) Council, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said that the final decision for using SpaceX to launch the Galileo satellites was in the hands of the Commission.

“We have prepared on the ESA side the contractual arrangements with an external launch company, but whether or not the launch will be decided to take place with SpaceX is not in our hands,” he said. “the European Commission will decide.”

There had been discussions for more than a year about using a non-European rocket, such as the Falcon 9, for launching those satellites because of delays in the Ariane 6, the retirement of the Ariane 5 and the withdrawal of the Soyuz after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those satellites would augment the existing operational Galileo constellation and serve as on-orbit replacements if other satellites fail.

ESA had already contracted with SpaceX for three Falcon 9 launches. The ESA said it chose the Falcon 9 after the loss of the Soyuz, delays in the Ariane 6 and concerns about the Vega C, which remains out of service since a launch failure in December 2022.