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Two new satellites mark further enlargement of Galileo

on 06 December 2021

Europe’s largest satellite constellation has grown even bigger, following the launch of two more Galileo navigation satellites by Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 5 December. Galileo satellites 27-28 add to an existing 26-satellite constellation in orbit, providing the world’s most precise satnav positioning to more than 2.3 billion users around the globe.

ESA Director of Navigation Paul Verhoef comments: “Today’s liftoff marks the 11th Galileo launch of operational satellites in ten years: a decade of hard work by Europe’s Galileo partners and European industry, over the course of which Galileo was first established as a working system then began Initial Services in 2016. With these satellites we are now increasing the robustness of the constellation so that a higher level of service guarantees can be provided.”

Soyuz launcher VS-26, operated by Arianespace and commissioned by ESA, lifted off with the pair of 715 kg satellites from French Guiana on December 5 at 01:19 CET.

The satellites will spend the coming weeks being manoeuvred into their final working orbit at 23 222 km using their onboard thrusters, at the same time as their onboard systems are gradually checked out for operational use.

The satellites launched today are the first two out of the remaining 12 Galileo first generation satellites, which are an improved version of the existing design. In their final stop before heading on to French Guiana for launch, these satellites undergone rigorous testing for spaceflight at ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in the Netherlands, which is the largest satellite test center in Europe. There are currently six Galileo satellites either currently undergoing testing or stored at the site awaiting transportation to South America.

All remaining 10 first generation satellites will be launched during the next three years, after which they will be succeeded by the most advanced and powerful, and fully reconfigurable navigation satellites ever built, known as ‘Galileo Second Generation’.

ESA is currently developing these G2G satellites with European industry – sourced from two separate consortia to ensure competitiveness and redundancy – with their first launch scheduled for 2024.

More information is available at this link.

Image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique Vidéo du CSG - S Martin