Sunday, March 18, 2012

Satellite Error Still Under Debate

The two Galileo satellites launched Sept. 26, as you have probably heard, missed their projected orbit by just a smidge—slightly under 2,000 miles—and everyone at the European Space Agency is scratching their heads to try and figure out how it happened.

GPS World reported that an independent inquiry commission has been appointed to investigate the matter and they should be presenting their initial conclusions on Sept. 8.

Several articles have popped up over the last few days with different conclusions about the problem. The most common is that the issue occurred during the flight phase involving the separation of the Fregat upper stage. A GPS World article recently suggested that it might be a software error.

However, despite the erroneous orbit configuration, the satellites are both fully functional (or, at least, as fully functional as they can be while in the incorrect orbit). There have been several suggestions to try and get the satellites back in the correct orbits, but my favorite has to be the ‘robotic space tow truck‘ suggested by Effective Space Solutions LTD. No official plan has been released yet.

According to Satellite Today, the Galileo launches have been fraught with problems and no immediately identifiable solution. As for the most recent mishap, there hasn’t been any word on whether or not this anomaly will cause any further setbacks. Arianespase CEO Stéphane Israël has assured the public that the satellites are not going to harm anyone and offered his “sincere excuses” to the ESA and the European Commission for the missed orbit.

Clearly, the commission wasn’t impressed. Today the European Commission has requested a report with full details and what steps Arianespace will take to fix the problem along with a timetable for how long it will take to fix.


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