Galileo Operators Take Possession of Wayward EU Navsats

Galileo Operators Take Possession of Wayward EU Navsats

The good news is that the two European Union (EU) Galileo navigation satellites launched in August are in “excellent health and working normally.”  The not so good news is that they are in the wrong orbit.  What they will be used for is an open question.

The European Space Agency (ESA), which serves as the design and procurement agent for the satellites, announced today that the pair of satellites were handed over from ESA’s Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany to the Galileo Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany in late September. 

Galileo is Europe’s version of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) for providing positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) data.  The EU and ESA shared Galileo development costs, but the EU is shouldering the full cost of the operational system.

These two satellites, the first of 30 that will comprise Galileo’s Fully Operational Capability (FOC), were launched by Arianespace from Kourou, French Guiana, using Russia’s Soyuz rocket and Fregat upper stage on August 22, 2014

Initially, the launch was thought to have been a complete success, but ESOC soon determined that the satellites were not in their correct orbital locations.  Further analysis showed the satellites were in an orbit with an apogee that is too high, perigee that is too low, and at the wrong inclination.  Ultimately it was determined that the Fregat upper stage had malfunctioned

In addition, one solar panel on each OHB-built satellite had not deployed.  Controllers were able to point the satellites so the solar array release mechanisms could be warmed by the Sun and that did the trick.  Thus they are fully functional now, but what use they will be in that orbit is unclear.  They do not have sufficient on-board fuel to reach their correct orbit.  The ESA announcement said the Galileo Control Center will “care for them pending a final decision on their use.”

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.