Soyuz Flight VS09, carrying Europe’s fifth and sixth Galileo satellites, lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, today (August 22, 12:27:11 UTC/14:27:11 CEST.)
All the stages of the Soyuz vehicle performed as planned, with the Fregat upper stage releasing the satellites into their target orbit close to 23,500 km altitude, 3 hours 47 minutes after liftoff.
These new satellites joined four Galileo satellites already in orbit, launched in October 2011 and October 2012 respectively. This first quartet were In-Orbit Validation (IOV) satellites, serving to demonstrate the Galileo system would function as planned.
Satellites 5 and 6, the first Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites, are significant as the first of the rest of the Galileo constellation. This launch marks the start of a new phase in the European satellite navigation program where the full constellation will be deployed with short intervals between launches. A steady stream of launches will follow to build the complete Galileo constellation.
Watch a video of the launch here:
On completion of the initial checks, run jointly by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French space agency CNES, the two satellites will be handed over to the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, and the Galileo in-orbit testing facility in Redu, Belgium, for testing before they are commissioned for operational service in the autumn.
The deployment of the constellation will now move more quickly, with six to eight satellites launched per year using a series of Soyuz and Ariane launches from the CSG, along with finalization of the remaining elements of the ground network.
The final constellation will consist of 24 satellites expected to be ready in 2017 and complemented by six in-orbit spares.
This deployment phase of the Galileo program is being managed and funded by the European Commission, with ESA acting as design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission.