1st Findings Due Sept. 8 For Galileo Launch Failure Review Board

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PONTE VEDRA, Fla. — Former European Space Agency Inspector General Peter Dubock will head an eight-member board of inquiry into the Aug. 22 failure of the Europeanized Russia Soyuz rocket, which placed two European Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites into a useless orbit, launch service provider Arianespace announced Aug. 25.

The board, which will coordinate its activities with the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, is scheduled to begin its work Aug. 28 and to report initial findings by Sept. 8, Arianespace said.

Evry, France-based Arianespace operates the Europeanized Soyuz from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport on the northeast coast of South America.

In its ninth flight from the European spaceport, the rocket’s Fregat upper stage placed the two 730-kilogram Galileo satellites into an orbit that was way off target both in terms of its perigee and its orbital inclination.

Government and industry officials have said privately that they doubt the satellites will be able to travel the necessary distance to the correct orbit with sufficient fuel left to operate for any appreciable length of time.

The Galileo system, which is designed to comprise 30 satellites in orbit, is managed by the 20-nation ESA for the European Union, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union.

Before the Aug. 22 failure, an identical Soyuz-Fregat rocket was scheduled to carry two more Galileo satellites into medium-Earth orbit in December. Whether that schedule can be maintained is unclear, but the defective performance of the Fregat stage, which has a demonstrated success record, was so flagrant that officials immediately began speculating about problem in its guidance, navigation and control software.

In addition to Dubock, the board of inquiry members are:

  • Guido Colasurdo, a flight-mechanics professor at the University of Rome Sapienza. 
  • Michel Courtois, former technical director at ESA and a veteran of several failure and program-quality reviews for ESA.
  • Paul Flament, Galileo program unit head at the European Union’s directorate-general for enterprise and industry, which has charge of Galileo.
  • Giuliano Gatti, head of the space-component office for Galileo at ESA.
  • Wolfgang Kubbat, former manager of the Institute of Flight Dynamics and Automatic Control at the Technical University of Darmstadt, in Germany.
  • Isabelle Rongier, inspector-general and director of quality at the French space agency, CNES.
  • Toni Tolker Nielsen, ESA deputy inspector general.

Roscosmos named Alexander Daniliuk, deputy director of Russia’s TsNIIMASH organization, to be the interface between the Russian and European inquiries. The Fregat upper stage is built by Russia’s NPO Lavochkin.

Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said in a statement that the board of inquiry will operate in full independence, and on a tight schedule.