Two New European Galileo GPS Satellites Launched Into Orbit This Month

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The Galileo GPS system is entirely civilian, unlike its rivals designed by the Russian and American military, and when fully operational will offer a more robust GPS solution and exciting opportunities for GPS manufacturers around the world. This month, the European navigation system, Galileo, took a crucial step with the successful launch of two new satellites. The first test of the system will begin soon as there are now enough satellites in orbit to allow for more advanced testing of the system.

Two New European Galileo GPS Satellites Launched Into Orbit This Month

Two new Galileo satellites were placed into orbit by a Russian Soyuz rocket from French Guiana. This is an important step for the European navigation system as it will now be able to run a test phase so GPS manufacturers can start to access the capabilities involved. 

Galileo, which will eventually have 30 satellites in total, should be able to provide services to users in the first few years. "We are committed to provide reliable navigation in 2018," said Paul Flament, Program Manager at the European Commission.

A Success for Europe 

Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall hailed this as "a success for Europe", seeing it as a "good omen." He also said that "new success" of a Soyuz rocket launch "confirms the exemplary nature of our cooperation with Russia."

The third mission of Soyuz from French Guiana placed the two new satellites on a circular orbit at an altitude of 23,222 km of the Galileo constellation. Each of the spacecrafts have weight 700 kg each.

Designed for a lifetime of 12 years, they join their counterparts in orbit and all four of them will form a "mini-constellation" that is fully operational so tests can be conducted. 

At first, and for a hundred days, it will ensure that new satellites are stable enough for Galileo and are functioning properly. Operational navigation tests will probably not commence until around February of 2013.

Slated to Launch by 2018

In the Spring of 2013, the four European satellites should be able to provide for the first time their first waypoint. The in-orbit validation phase will be followed by the deployment of the remaining satellites and Galileo should be fully operational by 2018 or 2019 at the very latest. These type of projects are prone to delays so it’s currently impossible to fix a 100% confirmed date on the official launch.

The four satellites currently in orbit were built by a consortium led by EADS Astrium Germany and assembled in Rome by Thales Alenia Space.

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