Arianespace expands Galileo constellation to 28 satellites
TAMPA, Fla. — Arianespace successfully launched another two satellites for Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system Dec. 4, growing the constellation to 28 in orbit.
The FOC-M9 (23-24) and SAT 27-28 payloads lifted off on a Soyuz rocket at 7:19 p.m. Eastern from French Guiana.
Germany’s OHB System built the satellites, and the mission marks the eleventh time Arianespace has performed a launch for the constellation.
It will take 10 days from launch for the payloads to reach their final orbit at 23,222 kilometers, according to Telespazio, which is part of a joint venture with German space agency DLR called Spaceopal that manages Galileo Control Centres. The orbit raising will be followed by 25 days of drift and fine positioning to put the satellites in their operational orbit.
“Arianespace is proud to guarantee a secure and autonomous access to space with the deployment of Galileo, marking another step towards European independence in satellite navigation,” Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël said in a statement.
Galileo is fully financed and owned by the European Union, and has been providing initial services since 2016.
OHB has a contract to provide 34 Galileo satellites in total to deliver full global services.
However, Airbus Defense and Space and Thales Alenia Space will build an initial set of next-generation Galileo satellites that aim to start launching in 2024.
The next launch from French Guiana is slated for Dec. 22, when Arianespace plans to orbit NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope on an Ariane 5 rocket.