Javier Benedicto, the head of the Galileo Project Office for the European Space Agency (ESA), set an aggressive schedule for launching some Galileo satellites as many as four at a time in 2014 and 2015, in an effort to meet a target provision date of Galileo’s initial services in 2014 and full services in 2015. The announcement emerged at the Munich Summit on March 14.
The hurry-up to carry a further 22 satellites into orbit will get underway with continued dual-satellite launches aboard Russian Soyuz rockets, as was the case for the most recent in-orbit validation (IOV) launch in October, 2011. There will be three Soyuz launches in 2013, for a total of six new satellites boosted into orbit, and two Soyuz launches in 2014, adding four more. Then the burden will shift to European rockets provided by Arianespace, according to a contract signed in February of this year. One Ariane 5 rocket is slated to carry four Galileo satellites aloft in 2014, bringing the projected total of IOV and eventually operational Galileo satellites in space to 16 by the end of 2014.
Previously, ESA had aired plans to continue with Soyuz-borne IOV launches in 2012, but the schedule announced in Munich did not mention these.
In 2015, two more Ariane 5 launches will add eight satellites, for a total on orbit of 24, estimated to be sufficient for Galileo full operational capability.
In subsequent talks with European satellite manufacturers OHB Systems and Astrium, GPS World contributing editor Don Jewell was told that the future launch schedule is “subject to change.”
ESA has made no official announcement of a detailed launch schedule; inquiries regarding the Benedicto remarks were referred to the February contract statement, cited above.