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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


At 9:27 am on Friday, August 22, a Soyuz rocket operated by Arianespace lifted off from French Guiana, making the ninth successful launch for the company using their Soyuz rockets. On board were two ESA German built Galileo satellites; the 5th and 6th of a planned 30-satellite constellation.
Photo:  ESA

The Galileo satellites will provide global positioning services for use in navigation, and are interoperable with the American GPS satellite network and Russian GLONASS system. The first four were successfully launched by Arianespace, and the company announced on August 20 that it had signed an agreement with ESA to place 12 more of the satellites in orbit beginning in 2015.
Shortly after the two new satellites were placed in orbit, however, it became clear that something had gone wrong. Observations of the two satellites seemed to show that they were not in their targeted orbit.  According to Arianespace:

"The liftoff and first part of the mission proceeded nominally, leading to release of the satellites according to the planned timetable, and reception of signals from the satellites. It was only a certain time after the separation of the satellites that the ongoing analysis of the data provided by the telemetry stations operated by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French space agency CNES showed that the satellites were not in the expected orbit."
“The targeted orbit was circular, inclined at 55 degrees with a semi major axis of 29,900 kilometers,” the company said in a statement. “The satellites are now in an elliptical orbit, with excentricity of 0.23, a semi major axis of 26,200 km and inclined at 49.8 degrees”
The cause of the problem, according to an initial report, is that there was an anomaly in the upper stage of the rocket, which caused the satellites to be ejected into a different orbit than the target. The company is working with ESA and the French space agency, its Russian partners manufacturers RKTs-Progress and NPO Lavotchkine, and the Russian Space Agency, in order to determine the cause of the anomaly and determine the next steps for the Galileo mission.
Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël also noted in a Tweet that an “an independent inquiry
board” will be created on Monday to investigate the problems with this launch. As of August 25, 2014, it is unknown as to what overall effects the failed orbit will have on the two satellites, as well as their ability to perform in the Galileo Program.

The company’s next launch is still set to go ahead as scheduled on September 11, 2014. That launch will be of one of the company’s Ariane 5 rockets, and it will be carrying two telecommunications satellites into orbit. One for Malaysian satellite provider MEASAT and the other for Australian communications company Optus.

ABOUT THE SATELLITES:  Doresa and Milena – named after the respective German and Estonian winners of a European Commission children’s art competition – were built by prime-contractor OHB System of Germany, with the spacecraft’s navigation payloads supplied by the UK’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.
Marking another “first” on today’s Soyuz Flight VS09, these initial Galileo spacecraft were the first-ever OHB-built satellites lofted by Arianespace – a partnership that will continue to grow, as OHB System is responsible for building all 22 Galileo satellites in this series of the program’s FOC phase.
Following Flight VS09, Arianespace has now operated seven successful flights in 2014 across its complete launcher family. This year’s activity to date includes three Soyuz and Ariane 5 flights each, along with one mission performed by Vega.

ABOUT ARIANESPACE: Arianespace will be responsible for ensuring all of the 22 FOC satellites manufactured by the German group OHB System alongside the British company Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd are taken into circular orbit at an altitude of 23,522 km using a combination of five Soyuz launch-vehicles (two satellites per launch) and three Ariane 5 ES launch-vehicles (four satellites per launch). The 22 operational satellites will join the four IOV satellites (IOV 1&2 and IOV 3&4) launched successfully by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center back in 2011 and 2012.


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