Galileo Satellite’s launched to wrong orbit

Update to our previous story regarding the Soyuz Launch of two Galileo satellites.

At the end of the webcast yesterday ArianeSpace believed the satellites had been deployed to the planned orbits, however U.S. military orbital tracking data indicated the satellites were flying in a lower orbit than planned. Officials confirmed a launch anomaly in a statement late Friday.

“Complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit,” Arianespace, the French launch services company, said in a statement.

Arianespace said investigations into the launch anomaly are underway and more information will be provided after a flight data analysis to be completed Saturday.

Orbital data from the U.S. Air Force showed three objects in an orbit with a low point around 13,700 kilometers — about 8,500 miles — above Earth. The objects are in an orbit with an inclination of 49.7 degrees, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks global satellite and launch activity.

Update: Several sources have said that there may not be enough fuel on the satellites to correct their orbits, if so they will need to launch two replacements in the future to complete the full constellation.

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