Galileo satellites readied for Dec. 12 launch

November 21, 2017  - By

News from the European Space Agency

Three of the four Galileo satellites 19-22 undergoing fit check with the dispenser that will support them during their Dec. 12 flight into orbit. (Photo: ESA)

Europe’s next four Galileo navigation satellites and the Ariane 5 rocket due to lift them into orbit are being readied for their Dec. 12 launch from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

On Nov. 21, Galileo satellites 19–22 were declared ready for flight, along with their Ariane. Combined activities are now under way, culminating in the satellites meeting their rocket in the Final Assembly Building.

The satellites were flown in pairs to French Guiana last month. Once safely unboxed in the Spaceport’s cleanroom environment, they were tested to ensure they had suffered no damage during their transatlantic flights.

The four Galileo satellites mounted on top of a customised Ariane 5 rocket inside the aerodynamic fairing. (Image: ESA)

Next came their fit check, when they were mechanically and electrically linked one by one to the dispenser that will carry them during their ascent to the target 23,500 km-altitude orbit, before releasing them into space.

Last Friday saw the satellites filled with enough fuel to fine-tune their orbits and orientation during their projected 12-year working lives. Next, they will be attached to their dispenser together for the final time.

In parallel, their customised Ariane 5 is being assembled. Two solid-propellant boosters were mated with its main cryogenic stage before the addition of the interstage that carries the electronics to control the vehicle.

Next came the addition of the storable propellant stage, powered by a reignitable engine, which will deliver the quartet to their target orbit.

Once fully checked, the Ariane will be moved to the final building for the addition of the satellites atop their dispenser, sealed within their protective fairing.

This launch will bring the total Galileo constellation to 22, boosting the global availability of navigation signals. Galileo began Initial Services just under a year ago, the first step before full operations, on Dec. 15.

Galileo’s Ariane 5’s vehicle equipment bay is lowered for installation within the Final Assembly Building of Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Flight VA240 carrying Galileo satellites 19–22 into orbit is scheduled for Dec. 12. (Photo: ESA)

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.