European Space Agency Successfully Launches Four Galileo Satellites

The ESA (European Space Agency) has launched four additional Galileo satellites, accelerating deployment of the new satellite navigation system. Galileo is the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) that is currently being created by the European Union (EU) through the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European GNSS Agency (GSA). The Ariane 5 rocket, operated by Arianespace, lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana carried the Galileo satellites 15 - 18. This mission brings the Galileo system satellite count to 18 satellites.

The Satellites reached their target altitude, after a flawless release from the new dispenser designed to handle four satellites. Over the next few days, engineers will nudge the satellites into their final working orbits and begin tests to ensure they are ready to join the constellation. This process is expected to take about six months.

The satellites already in orbit will allow the European Commission to declare the start of initial services, expected towards year’s end. The previous 14 satellites were launched two at a time using the Soyuz–Fregat rocket.

After this successful launch, ESA can now rely on Ariane 5 expecting a quicker Galileo deployment. Two additional Ariane 5 launches are scheduled in 2017 and 2018. The full system of 24 satellites plus spares is expected to be in place by 2020.

Galileo is Europe’s civil global satellite navigation system. It will allow users worldwide to know their exact position in time and space with great precision and reliability. Once complete, the system will consist of 24 operational satellites and the ground infrastructure for the provision of positioning, navigation and timing services.

The Galileo programme is funded and owned by the EU. The European Commission has the overall responsibility for the programme, managing and overseeing the implementation of all programme activities.

Galileo’s deployment, the design and development of the new generation of systems and the technical development of infrastructure are entrusted to ESA. The definition, development and in-orbit validation phases were carried out by ESA, and co-funded by ESA and the European Commission.

The European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency (GSA) is ensuring the uptake and security of Galileo. Galileo operations and provision of services will be entrusted to the GSA from 2017.