A week after the dual liftoff from Kourou, French Guiana, the two latest Galileo satellites completed the critical Launch and Early Orbit Phase on October 19-20. The satellites are expected to reach their assigned orbits November 10 and 12.
The FM3 and FM4 satellites were handed over from the joint ESA/CNES Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) team in Toulouse, France, to the Galileo Control Centre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, from where Spaceopal will manage the operations of the Galileo constellation.
Following liftoff at 18:15 GMT on October 12, the intensive LEOP activities began upon separation of the satellites from the Fregat upper stage of their Soyuz launcher, with the first signals being received from the pair almost four hours later, according to the European Space Agency.
The handovers took place at 06:00 GMT on October 19 for FM4 and at 18:10 GMT on October 20 for FM3. During the week, LEOP operations proceeded according to the planned sequence.
Three orbit manoeuvres were conducted for each satellite to start them on drift orbits towards their operational positions, where they are expected to arrive on November 10 (FM3) and November 12 (FM4) after a series of drift-stop and fine-positioning manoeuvres.
The satellites were configured into a secure mode shortly after handover. While underway to their final positions, they will also undergo a series of tests to confirm the performance of their subsystems before switching on the payload.