On September 11 (UTC), 2015, Arianespace conducted successful launch of Soyuz-ST launch vehicle carrying two spacecraft for Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system, Galileo FOC (Full Operational Capacity) 9 and 10 satellites, into an intermediate circular orbit (MEO) from Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.
On the 12th Soyuz launch from French Guiana (flight VS12), Arianespace orbited latest Galileo FOC satellites, named Alba and Oriana, on behalf of the European Commission, under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA). These spacecraft are to operate in Galileo's Orbital Plane A – one of three orbital planes to be populated by the navigation spacecraft, constellation of which is ultimately expected to consist of 30 satellites.
Soyuz' flight with Galileo's Alba and Oriana satellites occurred during the 8th of twelve Arianespace missions planned for 2015 – which will be a new record for the company. Its preparations at the Spaceport included the first use of new Fregat upper stage fueling facility called FCube, which is part of improvements in French Guiana to increase launch capacity, flexibility and schedule robustness.
“Galileo keeps us busy, and Arianespace is very proud to be the reference partner of this European flagship space program… These satellites address all space applications: navigation, Earth observation, science and technology, meteorology and secured communications. Thanks to our launcher family, we are fully capable of addressing all needs of European institutions.” Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace
Following this latest successful mission, Arianespace has now launched one-third of the satellites comprising Galileo, or 10 out of a total of 30. Notably, Galileo FOC 9 and 10 satellites have become 30th and 31st satellites launched by Soyuz-ST from French Guiana, as well as 515th and 516th satellites launched by Arianespace overall in the course of 268 space missions for Arianespace launchers family (Ariane + Soyuz + Vega).
Galileo is a European project for a new global satellite navigation system. Under civilian control, it will deliver guaranteed, high-precision positioning services. The project is estimated at €5 billion as minimum. One of the aims of Galileo is to provide a European alternative to Russian GLONASS and US GPS satellite navigation systems, in case they were disabled by their operators.
“The deployment of Galileo system is rapidly gathering pace. By steadily boosting the number of satellites in space, together with new stations on the ground across the world, Galileo will soon have a global reach. The day of Galileo’s full operational capability is approaching. It will be a great day for Europe.” Jan Woerner, Director General of ESA
Produced by OHB System, Germany, these recently orbited Galileo satellites – which are the constellation's fifth and sixth Full Operational Capacity satellites, and the ninth and tenth Galileo spacecraft to be lofted overall – weigh some 715 kg each. Their navigation payloads were supplied by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) of the UK, a 99%-owned subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space.
The first Galileo launch, for the IOV (In Orbit Validation) 1 and 2 satellites, also used a Soyuz-ST rocket (VS01) on October 21, 2011. Arianespace then launched Galileo IOV 3 and 4 on October 12, 2012 (VS03). The first two Galileo FOC 5 and 6 satellites were launched on August 22, 2014. Despite the injection of these satellites into a non-compliant orbit, ESA managed to reposition them and validate their operation.FOC 7 and 8 satellites were successfully orbited on March 27, 2015, from Guiana Space Center, using a Soyuz-ST launcher on Flight VS11. Arianespace will continue to deploy the next four FOC satellites utilizing two Soyuz launchers, with the remaining 12 spacecraft to be orbited by three Ariane 5s – all of them from Guiana Space Center. One more Soyuz-ST mission for the Galileo program is planned at the end of 2015.