Ariane 5 carried four more satellites into orbit for Europe’s Galileo navigation system on 12th December — the 82nd consecutive success for the European launcher.
Arianespace’s Ariane 5 launcher carried four more satellites into orbit for Europe’s Galileo navigation system on 12th December. The mission marked the 82nd consecutive success for the European launcher. Overall payload lift performance to medium Earth orbit (MEO) was set at 3,283kg.
Lifting off at 3:36 PM local time in French Guiana, flight VA240 was the second to utilize the Ariane 5 to loft operational Galileo satellites. It followed another four orbited by Arianespace on an Ariane 5 in 2016, and 14 others launched in pairs aboard the company’s Russian-built Soyuz vehicles during seven missions performed between 2011 and 2016.
Flight VA240 was Arianespace’s 11th mission in 2017, including six by Ariane 5 and a further five by Vega (3) and Soyuz (2).
The Galileo satellites were built by prime contractor OHB System in Bremen, Germany, with the payloads for each satellite supplied by U.K.-based SSTL (Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd), which is 99%-owned by Airbus Defence and Space.
The deployment of these four FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellites — the last from the initial series of 14 ordered from OHB System in two batches in 2010 and 2012 —brings the total Galileo constellation to 22. An additional batch of eight satellites was ordered from OHB in June. The full operational constellation comprises 30 satellites, including six spares.
Galileo began Initial Services in December 2016. Full operational capability of the Galileo constellation is currently targeted for 2020.
Following the launch, the GSA (European GNSS Agency, in charge of managing and operating the EGNOS and Galileo satellite navigation systems for the European Union), became responsible for operating these satellites after their separation from the launcher. Satellite positioning operations and system operation will be carried out in conjunction with ESA.
Arianespace’s 2018 launch activity is scheduled begin on January 25 with an Ariane 5 mission to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). This mission will carry two relay satellites: SES-14 for the Luxemburg-based operator SES; and Al Yah 3 for Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, located in the United Arab Emirates at Abu Dhabi.