November’s Galileo satellites arrive at Europe’s spaceport

September 9, 2016  - By
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One of four Galileo satellites being unloaded from its 747 after arriving at Cayenne–Félix Eboué Airport in French Guiana on Sept. 6. The satellites were then transported to Europe's Spaceport.

One of four Galileo satellites being unloaded from its 747 after arriving at Cayenne–Félix Eboué Airport in French Guiana on Sept. 6. The satellites were then transported to Europe’s Spaceport.

News from the European Space Agency

 

A transatlantic flight delivered four Galileo satellites to French Guiana on Tuesday, in preparation for a shared launch this November by Ariane 5 — the first for Europe’s satnav constellation.

The satellites’ odyssey began the previous day, when they left ESA’s technical center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, where every Galileo satellite is tested.

Each satellite was placed into protective containers before leaving the cleanroom environment of the test facility. These containers incorporate sophisticated environmental control, satellite monitoring systems and shock absorbers.

Four Galileo satellites leaving ESA's technical centre in the Netherlands on Sept. 5, destined for Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana for a scheduled November launch.

Four Galileo satellites leaving ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands on Sept. 5, destined for Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana for a scheduled November launch. (Photo: ESA)

They were then driven by separate lorries to Luxembourg Findel Airport. On Tuesday morning they were flown by 747 aircraft to Cayenne–Félix Eboué Airport in French Guiana, touching down around 10:30 local time.

They were taken to the S1A payload preparation building of the Guiana Space Centre, to be unboxed the following day.

The building will remain their home as their launch campaign begins. The first activity is a ‘fit check’ with the dispenser that will release them into orbit from the rocket’s upper stage.

The modified Ariane 5 that will carry the four Galileos into orbit arrived in French Guiana a fortnight ago.

Elements of Galileo's specially customised Ariane 5 were unloaded from the MN Colibriroll-on/roll-off ship at French Guiana’s Pariacabo Port on Aug. 22.

Elements of Galileo’s specially customised Ariane 5 were unloaded from the MN Colibriroll-on/roll-off ship at French Guiana’s Pariacabo Port on Aug. 22. (Photo: ESA)

In development since 2012, this new variant has evolved from the Ariane 5 used to place ESA’s 20 tonne supply ferry for the International Space Station into low orbit.

This new version will carry a lighter payload — four fully fuelled 738 kg Galileo satellites plus their dispenser — but must take it up to the much higher altitude of 23,222 km.

November’s launch is a major step up for Galileo. The 14 Galileo satellites already in orbit have been launched two at a time, by Soyuz from French Guiana.

Four Galileo satellites left ESA's technical centre in the Netherlands on Sept. 6, destined for Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, scheduled for a November launch.

Four Galileo satellites left ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands on Sept. 6, destined for Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, scheduled for a November launch. (Photo: ESA)

Having 18 satellites in orbit should enable initial Galileo operational services to begin, a decision that will be taken by the European Commission, the system’s owner.

Two more Galileo launches by Ariane 5 are due in the next two years.

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