Europe’s Galileo Navigation Satellites Unlikely To Reach Orbit this Year

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PARIS — The first four full-operational-capability Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites are unlikely to be launched this year because of delays in their preparation, European government and industry officials said.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the French space agency, CNES, and until recently chief executive of Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium, said Aug. 28 that only two more launches of the Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket are planned this year. The Galileo satellites launch on Soyuz rockets two at a time.

The next Europeanized Soyuz will carry four O3b Networks Ka-band broadband communications satellites, to be launched in late September from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport on the northeast coast of South America.

The second and final Soyuz launch from the European site will be the late-November liftoff of the European Space Agency’s Gaia star-mapping satellite, Le Gall said. Le Gall made his statement at the Moscow air show and a CNES official confirmed it.

The first two of 22 Galileo satellites built by OHB AG of Germany are undergoing testing by the European Space Agency. Their launch aboard a Soyuz this year has been increasingly doubtful as testing continues. The commission of the 28-nation European Union, which owns the Galileo system, has made it a priority to have at least some Galileo services available by late 2014.

Four Galileo test satellites are already in orbit.

“At this point it does not appear that the Galileo satellites will be ready in time for a launch this year,” an European industry official said Aug. 29 when asked to comment on Le Gall’s remarks.