Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wayward Galileo Satellite Repositioned, Transmitting


If you’ve been reading this blog over the last few months, we’ve been following the journey of two Galileo satellites that were launched into the wrong orbit in mid August. Intended to be in a circular orbit to complete the first stage of the usable constellation, the satellites ended up nearly 2,000 miles off-target due to a malfunction that caused internal pipes to freeze, stranding the expensive satellites in unusable orbits.

During the end of November, one of the two satellites performed a series of 11 maneuvers over the course of 17 days to try and correct the orbit slightly and nudge the satellite upwards. The maneuvers were successful and the satellite reportedly rose more than 3500 km and now has a more circular and slightly more usable orbit. Tests are currently underway now that the satellite is in a more advantageous position.

As of November 29, the newly-corrected satellite transmitted its first navigation payload for the first ‘In-Orbit Test.’ The Search And Rescue payload will also be tested soon. I haven’t really seen anything about whether or not the navigation payload will be usable. The European Space Agency (ESA) has stated that the new orbit allows the satellite to pass over the same location on the ground every 20 days–compared to every 10 days for a normal Galileo repeat pattern–so the likelihood of the satellite being used for something related to navigation is higher than previously thought. There isn’t any word on plans the second satellite.

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