An additional four Galileo satellites are set to launch on 12th December, as the European constellation moves one step closer to full operational capability.
An additional four Full Operational Capability (FOC) Galileo satellites and the Ariane 5 rocket due to lift them into orbit are being readied for their 12th December launch from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will be the first Galileo launch since November 2016.
Galileo satellites 19–22 were declared ready for flight on 21st November, along with their Ariane launcher. Combined activities are currently under way, culminating in the satellites being installed in the rocket in the Final Assembly Building.
The satellites were flown in pairs to French Guiana last month. They have since undergone a ‘fit check’, when they were mechanically and electrically linked one by one to the dispenser that will carry them during their ascent to the target 23,500km-altitude orbit, before releasing them into space.
The satellites have now been filled with enough fuel to fine-tune their orbits and orientation during their projected 12-year working lives before being definitively attached to the dispenser together.
The deployment of these four FOC satellites — the last from the initial series of 14 ordered from OHB System in two batches in 2010 and 2012 —will bring 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. Full operational capability is currently targeted for 2020.
Galileo began Initial Services just under a year ago. The Galileo Search and Rescue (SAR) service — Europe’s contribution to the upgrade of the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite-based SAR distress alert detection and information distribution system — was launched in April.