In the first of two launches today Arianespace successfully delivered four Galileo satellites to add to the constellation already orbiting the Earth.
There were a lot of lasts for this mission as shown below
With this launch the initial phase of the Galileo constellation is complete. Future launches will be performed on the Ariane 6 which is due to start flying in 2020.
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.
This morning a Soyuz rocket lifted off from the French Guiana Space Center carrying the first two fully operation Galileo satellites. Galileo is the European’s version of the Global Positioning System, there are currently four satellites which were used to prove the system worked as needed, now that phase has completed the rest of the satellite fleet will now be launched to bring the system to full capacity.
The launch was delayed a day due to bad weather at French Guiana yesterday but launched successfully this morning following a smooth countdown. The satellites were deployed from the Fregat upper stage after a brief second firing of the Fregat engine following a 3h 38m cruise to the desired orbit. Once the spacecraft were deployed confirmation of communication with the ground stations was received.
Below are some screen grabs of the launch.