On March 27, 2015, Arianespace conducted successful launch of its Soyuz-ST launch vehicle with two Galileo navigation satellites into an intermediate circular orbit (MEO) from Kourou, French Guiana.
On its second launch of the year and 11th Soyuz-ST launch from Guiana Space Center, Arianespace orbited latest Galileo FOC (Full Operational Capacity) 7 and 8 satellites on behalf of the European Commission, under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA). Worth to note, this is the second launch of a navigation satellites over the last two days - on March 25 ULA successfully orbited GPS IIF-9 satellite by its Delta IV Medium+ vehicle, launched from Cape Canaveral.
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.
Produced by OHB System, Germany, these recently orbited Galileo satellites – which are the constellation's third and fourth FOC satellites for launch, and the seventh and eighth 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.
"Arianespace is very proud to be the primary partner in the Galileo program for the launch of this constellation. This evening's successful launch marks a new step forward in Europe's quest for independence in satellite navigation, a quest that is clearly reflected in our responsibilities and values: placing space at the service of citizens, especially in Europe..." Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace
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.
Soon after the VS11 mission Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, congratulated all who involved in Arianespace operations with the 35th anniversary of the company, which was established on March 26, 1980, becoming the world's first commercial space launch services provider. SpaceDigest also congratulates this world's leading launch operator and wishes them only successful missions for many years ahead!
Happy Birthday to Arianespace! After Flight VS11, we celebrated 35 great years since our formation. Thanks to all who made it possible! Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace
Interesting to note, previous launch for Soyuz family of rockets was conducted just few hours ago on the other side of our planet. Soyuz-FG successfully orbited Soyuz TMA-16M manned spaceship with the Expedition 43 crew to the International Space Station from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.