Galileo Flight Model #3 (FM3) is readied for the satellite’s fit check on the dispenser that will carry it and FM4 in a parallel arrangement on Soyuz’ next launch. The silver-colored dispenser is partly visible behind two mission team members during this activity in the Spaceport’s S1B payload preparation building.
Both Galileo navigation satellites for Arianespace’s third Soyuz flight from the Spaceport are now in French Guiana, marking a new milestone for this mission scheduled in the second half of 2012, according to Arianespace.
The Flight Model #4 (FM4) satellite arrived Friday at Félix Eboué International Airport near the capital city of Cayenne, delivered by a chartered Ilyushin Il-76TD cargo jetliner.
Its FM3 co-passenger remains busy in the Spaceport’s S1B payload preparation building — completing its fit check with the dispenser for the dual-satellite payload arrangement on Soyuz. The dispenser was developed for Arianespace by RUAG Space, and carries the satellites in a parallel arrangement.
These two spacecraft will join another pair of Galileo satellites launched by Arianespace in October 2011 on Soyuz’ maiden flight from French Guiana. All four are In-Orbit Validation platforms that will enable European industry to validate prototype Galileo-based receivers and services using actual satellite signals, while also allowing performance assessments of the ground system that will maintain the Galileo system’s precision.
Arianespace is responsible for deploying the entire Galileo constellation, to be composed of 30 satellites in orbit as an independent global satellite navigation system for Europe.
Galileo launches began with the 2005 and 2008 orbiting of two experimental satellites — GIOVE-A and GIOVE-B — carried on Soyuz vehicles operated from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate. It was followed by October 2011′s maiden Soyuz launch from French Guiana with the constellation’s first two operational satellites.
Arianespace is able to use a mix of both its medium-lift Soyuz and heavy-lift Ariane 5 launchers in deploying the full Galileo system, demonstrating the company’s flexibility in orbiting satellite constellations.
The photo shows FM4’s unloading from the Ilyushin Il-76TD cargo jetliner at Cayenne’s Félix Eboué International Airport.
The fourth Galileo flight model satellite being unloaded at Cayenne Airport in French Guiana on August 17. (Credits: ESA/EADS Astrium – Raoul Kieffer)