Sunday, March 18, 2012

Galileo Satellites Launched Friday; 2,000 Miles Off Course

The Soyuz rocket launched two Galileo satellites into space on Friday. European Pressphoto Agency

The Soyuz rocket launched two Galileo satellites into space on Friday. European Pressphoto Agency

The two Galileo satellites were successfully launched on August 22, 2014 at about 9:30 a.m. local time from French Guiana. I say successful in that they were indeed launched into space. The mission was rather less successful in that the satellites somehow ended up in the wrong orbit and are now about 2,000 miles away from they should be. The intended orbit for the most recent GPS satellites was circular while the current orbit is elliptical.

From what all of the reports I have seen indicate, no one is exactly sure what went wrong and a decision about what to do with the wayward satellites has not been reached. The Wall Street Journal reported that the European Commission has requested an inquiry “to clarify the circumstances and the potential implications for the mission” and if some sort of correction measures are not taken, the satellites will be completely useless. Best case, their life will be significantly shorter than expected. Yikes.

If they had been successful, these two satellites would have joined the four in-orbit validation satellites already in place, with additional satellites planned for launch later this year. However, with this most recent hiccup, that may or may not happen. The current goal for Galileo (prior to this mishap) was to have a full constellation of 30 satellites in place by 2020.

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