Europe launches satnav orbiters

September 11, 2015

A model of the Galileo satellite is seen at the German Aerospace Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Wessling, Bavaria, in 2011
A model of the Galileo satellite is seen at the German Aerospace Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Wessling, Bavaria, in 2011
Europe sent two satellites into space Friday as it pushes to get its beleaguered Galileo satnav programme back on track.

Orbiters nine and 10 were launched from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guyana, at 0208 GMT—bringing the satellite navigation system a third of the way to full deployment.

The two satellites were successfully placed in orbit, the space programme's operator Arianespace said.

"The mission has been an absolute success," said Stephane Israel.

The project, a rival to America's GPS for navigation and search-and-rescue services, will ultimately sport 30 satellites, including six spares.

But it has been plagued by delays, technical glitches and budget issues that have called into question whether it will meet its deadline to start working next year.

In August 2014, satellites five and six were sent into a lopsided, elliptical trajectory.

The pair have since been manoeuvred into a more circular path, and are expected to be able to function with the rest of the constellation by next year.

"We should have (these) two satellites broadcasting navigation messages at almost the same (level) as the others at the very beginning of 2016," Galileo programme director Didier Faivre of the European Space Agency (ESA) told reporters Thursday.

Data illustrating the Galileo satellite navigation system

The European Commission, which finances the project, aims to have 16 satellites in orbit by the end of 2016 to start providing initial satnav services, including applications for smartphones, in-car navigation and search-and-rescue location.

The March launch of satellites seven and eight had been delayed by three months for an investigation into last year's mishap.

The incident was blamed on frozen fuel pipes on the Soyuz rocket's fourth stage, called Fregat—a problem ESA says has since been fixed.

Faivre said full deployment will cost about seven billion euros ($7.9 billion), with another 500 million euros to be spent per year to maintain, operate and renew the satellites.

But it is not clear if Galileo will meet the 2016 deadline to start providing services.

"We are waiting for the green light from ESA," Paul Flament, head of the European Commission's Satellite Navigation Unit, said.

Explore further: Europe ready for next Galileo satnav launch

Related Stories

Europe resumes Galileo satnav deployment (Update)

March 27, 2015

Europe resumed deployment of its beleaguered Galileo satnav programme on Friday, launching a pair of satellites seven months after a rocket malfunction sent two multi-million euro orbiters awry.

Europe to resume satnav launches in March: Arianespace

January 28, 2015

Europe in March will resume satellite launches for its troubled Galileo navigation system, hoping to boost by at least six the number of orbiters this year, Arianespace and the European Commission said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

How hot are atoms in the shock wave of an exploding star?

January 21, 2019

A new method to measure the temperature of atoms during the explosive death of a star will help scientists understand the shock wave that occurs as a result of this supernova explosion. An international team of researchers, ...

New eclipsing cataclysmic variable discovered

January 21, 2019

Using the Mobile Astronomical System of Telescope-Robots (MASTER), an international team of astronomers has detected a new eclipsing cataclysmic variable. The newfound object, designated MASTER OT J061451.70–272535.5, is ...

The disintegrating exoplanet K2-22b

January 21, 2019

Exoplanet surveys have yielded many surprises over the years, and the discovery of "disintegrating" exoplanets was one of them. These are planets that produce asymmetric shapes in the dips of the light curves seen as they ...

Total lunar eclipse woos sky watchers

January 21, 2019

An unusual set of celestial circumstances came together over Sunday night and the wee hours of Monday for sky watchers in Europe, Africa and the Americas, where the moon was fully obscured before lighting up again with a ...

Making stars when the universe was half its age

January 18, 2019

The universe is about 13.8 billion years old, and its stars are arguably its most momentous handiwork. Astronomers studying the intricacies of star formation across cosmic time are trying to understand whether stars and the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.