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Galileo constellation grows with launch of 2 new satellites

December 5, 2021  - By

After a three-day delay, on Dec. 4, at 7:19 p.m. EST (00:19 GMT) launch service provider Arianespace launched Galileo satellites 27 and 28 on a Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Manufactured by OHB, the satellites are operated by SpaceOpal for the EU Space Program Agency (EUSPA), which, in turn, is operating the mission on behalf of the European Commission.

These satellites are the first of Batch 3, comprising 12 additional first-generation Galileo satellites commissioned in 2017 to bring the constellation to full operational capability. They will be used to further expand the constellation up to 38 satellites and act as backups and spares for satellites that reach their end of life.

“Today’s lift-off marks the 11th Galileo launch of operational satellites in 10 years: a decade of hard work by Europe’s Galileo partners and European industry, over the course of which Galileo was first established as a working system then began initial services in 2016,” said Paul Verhoef, ESA director of navigation. “With these satellites, we are now increasing the robustness of the constellation so that a higher level of service guarantees can be provided.”

“Galileo is already delivering meter-scale accuracy everywhere on Earth,” added Matthias Petschke, the responsible director at the European Commission. “The Galileo partners are far from resting on their laurels, however. These two satellites will further reinforce Galileo and will — along with other launches to follow — enable novel signals and services, helping to ensure that Galileo retains its first-place status for many years to come.”

Soyuz launcher VS-26, operated by Arianespace and commissioned by ESA, lifted off with the pair of 715 kg satellites from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. All the Soyuz stages performed as planned, with the Fregat upper stage releasing the satellites into their target orbit close to 23,525 km altitude, around 3 hours and 54 minutes after liftoff.

The satellites will spend the coming weeks being maneuvered into their final working orbit at 23,222 km using their onboard thrusters, at the same time as their onboard systems are gradually checked out for operational use – known as the Launch and Early Operations Phase.

The Soyuz rocket was produced by the Progress Space Rocket Center, which is a part of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. This is the 14th time this partnership aimed to send a Galileo mission to space. This mission, known as Galileo FOC-M9, was the 61st mission launched by Arianespace on behalf of ESA and carried the 83rd and 84th satellites for the partnership.

See the pre-launch article here.

Artist's depiction of the Galileo satellites deployed from the Fregat upper stage pillars.(Image: ESA)

Artist’s depiction of the Galileo satellites deployed from the Fregat upper stage pillars.(Image: ESA)

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About the Author:


Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@gpsworld.com or 541-543-0525.

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