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Two new satellites join the Galileo constellation

28 March 2015

The European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation system now has eight satellites in orbit, following the launch atop a Soyuz rocket of the latest pair on Friday (March 27).

The protective launcher fairing is jettisoned, revealing the two Galileo satellites attached to their dispenser atop the Fregat upper stage that will haul them most of the way into medium-Earth orbit (image: Arianespace)

Following initial checks, run jointly by ESA and France’s CNES space agency from the CNES Toulouse centre, the two satellites will be handed over to the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany and the Galileo in-orbit testing facility in Redu, Belgium for testing before they are commissioned for operational service. This is expected in mid-year.

The new pair will join the six satellites already launched, in October 2011, October 2012 and August 2014. The fifth and sixth satellites suffered 'orbit injection anomlies' but these have since been rectified.

“The deployment of the Galileo constellation is restarting with this successful launch,” says Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA. “The tests in orbit of satellites 5 and 6 have demonstrated the quality and performance of the satellites, and the production of the following ones is well on track. Good news for Galileo.”

With four more satellites in testing or final integration and scheduled for launch later this year, the project is now approaching the cruise mode of production, testing and deployment of the satellite constellation.

The objective is to deliver a package of Initial Services, including a free Public Service, an encrypted Public Regulated Service and a Search And Rescue function, by 2016, to be transferred to the responsibility of the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency, GSA.

A full system capability that includes an encrypted commercial service benefiting from 24 operational satellites and six spares is expected to be in place by 2020.

Learn more about Galileo here.

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