Ariane-5 Launches Four Galileo Satellites in Earth Orbit




  • Four new satellites of the European Galileo satellite navigation system have been successfully launched on board an Ariane 5 launcher.
  • From mid-2018, ‘Nicole’, ‘Zofia’, ‘Alexandre’ and ‘Irina’ will allow almost complete global coverage using Galileo signals.
  • The next launch of four additional satellites is planned for July 2018.

On 12 December 2017 at 19:36 Central European Time (15:36 local time), the ‘Nicole’, ‘Zofia’, ‘Alexandre’ and ‘Irina’ satellites of the European Galileo satellite navigation system were launched to space on board an Ariane 5 launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. This was the second successful launch of the specially modified Ariane-5ES version, on which four Galileo satellites, each weighing around 715 kilograms, can be transported simultaneously, an will eventually be placed in a 23,222-kilometre-high orbit. “The satellites will now undergo six months of commissioning in space before being integrated into the navigation system,” explains René Kleeßen, Galileo Programme Manager at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Space Administration. “From mid-2018, almost complete global coverage using Galileo signals will be possible.”

Lift off of Ariane 5 launcher with four Galileo satellites on board. Image Credit: DLR

The satellite test phase in space will last around six months

The Ariane launcher flew for three hours and 55 minutes before all four satellites were put into middle Earth orbit. During the first seven to 11 days in space, they will be controlled from the control centre of the French space agency CNES in Toulouse, before the Galileo control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen takes over. “After that, we will enter the exciting phase of platform tests, their final positioning, and the testing and commissioning of the payload,” says Marko Schmidt, Galileo Project Manager of DLR GfR mbH. “At the end of this important phase, we will be able to safely integrate the satellites into our fleet and this will make an additional, important contribution to a globally-available European satellite navigation system.”

Vacuum test of Galileo satellite. Image Credit: DLR

The next four satellites will be launched in July 2018

With the new additions, the Galileo fleet has now grown to 22 satellites – and will soon be expanded, as the next launch of four additional satellites is planned for July 2018. Thanks to the new option of a quadruple launch using the specially optimised Ariane-5ES, the expansion of the system is now striding ahead. The European Commission announced the launch of initial Galileo services on 15 December 2016. These included open services, the search-and-rescue service, the PRS encrypted service and a highly-accurate time service that works in the nanosecond range. Currently, these services are still in the initial phase, which means that they are highly accurate but are not yet universally accessible. All Galileo services should be available after complete commissioning in 2020, when the network will comprise 30 satellites (24 active and six replacement satellites), each of which should have a service life in space of around 12 years.

Source: DLR Press Release



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