Europe sat-nav launch glitch linked to frozen pipe

A frozen fuel pipe in the upper stage of a Soyuz launcher likely caused the failure last month to place two European navigation satellites in orbit, a source close to the inquiry said Wednesday.

Confirming a report in French daily Le Monde, the source said investigators suspect a pipe containing hydrazine fuel, used by the Fregat to drive the satellites to their orbital slots, had frozen during launch.

The hydrazine pipes are located near a pipe that circulates ultra-cold liquid helium, the source said.

The two satellites, launched from Europe's base in Kourou, French Guiana, were intended to be the first two fully operational satellites in the new-generation navigation system Galileo.

Two more satellites had been expected to be hoisted by the end of 2014, opening the way for a first phase of Galileo services in 2015, including applications for smartphones and in-car and search-and-rescue location.

By 2017, according to the Galileo schedule, all 24 operational satellites would be in place.

Six backups would join the fleet by 2020, at which point the system would be fully operational.

Launched by a Russian-made Soyuz, the misplaced satellites should have been slotted into a circular orbit at an altitude of 23,500 kilometres (14,600 miles), inclined at 56 degrees to the equator.

Instead, they were placed in an useless elliptical orbit at a height of 17,000 kilometres (11,000 miles).

The failure adds to a catalogue of problems encountered by the 5.4-billion-euro ($7.2-billion) programme, designed to give the EU independence in from the US Global Positioning System (GPS).

Galileo, according to the project's defenders, will be more accurate and have a stronger signal, particularly in built-up areas, than its competitors.

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© 2014 AFP

Citation: Europe sat-nav launch glitch linked to frozen pipe (2014, October 1) retrieved 20 October 2019 from
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Oct 02, 2014
Yes. CERN, ESA, AIRBUS, Eurocopter (now the worlds largest commercial helicopter manufacturer), etc.

All European cooperation start out with problems but end up being incredible successful. It`s not easy building something with so many partners. But cooperation keeps on winning out over the long run time and time again.

Galileo will be a leap beyond what GPS offers. And it will be the first civilian system that can not be deactivated in times of war or conflict. It will also mean a great boost for European industry and strategic and technical independence. Which will further boost European pride and quests for more technological leadership in other areas (as is already starting to happen). As well as offering a range of new services from Galileo global positioning that are not possible with GPS.

Besides this was Not a fault of the program. It was a Russian rocket malfunctioning. The Russians have had a very bad track record the last few years concerning rocket malfunctions.

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