Arianespace has successfully launched the 13th and 14th satellites in the Galileo constellation for the European Commission’s DG GROWTH (Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs), under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).
The company’s second Soyuz launch of the year took place on May 24 at 5:48 am (local time) from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou, French Guiana.
With this seventh Soyuz launch from CSG at the service of Galileo, the company has now orbited 14 satellites for the global navigation system. Before the end of 2016, Arianespace will launch four more Galileo satellites, using an Ariane 5 ES launch vehicle, enabling the system to offer its initial services.
Today’s Soyuz success – the fourth launch overall in 2016 for Arianespace – marks the 250th launch from the Guiana Space Center with its family of launchers. This total, composed of 229 Ariane flights, 15 with Soyuz and six liftoffs of Vega, confirms Arianespace’s operational performance over time for the benefit of all its clients.
Galileo, an emblematic European program
The European Commission’s DG GROWTH oversees Galileo program definition and procurement, assigning this responsibility to the navigation directorate of the European Space Agency (ESA).
Europe initiated the Galileo program to develop a new global navigation satellite system (GNSS). Under civilian control, it will offer a guaranteed, high-precision positioning service, thereby freeing Europe from its current dependence on the American GPS system. The Galileo constellation will comprise 30 satellites, of which 14 already have been orbited by Arianespace (four IOV and 10 FOC).
Galileo is the first joint infrastructure produced and financed by the European Union, which will be the system owner. It features innovative technologies developed in Europe to benefit all citizens. The initial services offered by Galileo will be up and running by the end of this year, with full operational capacity expected in late 2020.
Galileo program milestones:
2005 & 2008: GIOVE-A and GIOVE-B experimental satellites launched from Baikonur by Soyuz (via Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate).
Oct. 2011: first Galileo IOV (In Orbit Validation) satellites, 1 and 2, launched on the initial Soyuz mission, VS01).
Oct. 2012: Soyuz VS03 launch of Galileo IOV 3 and 4.
Aug. 2014: first two Galileo FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellites, 5 and 6, launched by Soyuz. Despite injection into non-compliant orbit, ESA’s staff were able to verify operability, then reposition the satellites so they could contribute to the constellation.
March 2015: Galileo FOC satellites 7 and 8 orbited on VS11.
Sept. 2015: Galileo FOC satellites 9 and 10 launched on VS12.
Flight VS15: demonstrating the flexibility of Arianespace’s launcher family needed by European governments
Given the confirmed availability of satellites, the European Commission decided early in February 2016 to sustain the Galileo deployment rate reached in 2015 by adding this Soyuz launch (VS15) to the planned Ariane 5 ES launch in November, thus boosting six more satellites into orbit in 2016.
Launch operations are being handled by Arianespace at the Guiana Space Center, under its contract with ESA. The launch comes just 29 days after the previous Soyuz mission (VS14), setting a new record for Soyuz operations in French Guiana. The previous record was 43 days between the VS08 and VS09 flights.
This responsiveness clearly shows that Arianespace’s launcher family perfectly matches Europe’s needs, as well as demonstrating the relevance of local investments such as FCube (the building dedicated to propellant loading for the upper stage of Soyuz), and the operational expertise of the European and Russian staff at the launch base.
Guaranteeing independent access to space for europe
Today’s launch is the second of the year for Europe. The European Commission has 13 more satellites scheduled for launch by Arianespace, making it the company’s biggest government customer. In the framework of contracts implemented by ESA, the upcoming launches will be:
Deployment of the Copernicus program’s space segment, with Sentinel-3B being orbited in 2017 by the Vega lightweight launcher;
Continued deployment of the Galileo constellation, with three Ariane 5 ES heavy launchers being used to orbit 12 more satellites. The first of these missions is planned for November 2016; two others will follow in 2017 and 2018.
After today’s mission – the 53rd for ESA – Arianespace will orbit three more spacecraft for ESA in 2017-2018: EDRS-C; BEPI-COLOMBO;and the iconic James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), within the scope of a partnership with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.
Arianespace celebrates the 250th launch from the Guiana Space Center
250 launches of the Arianespace family have been operated from the Guiana Space Center, orbiting 456 satellites for 120 government and commercial customers. These 250 launches were divided among the three launchers in the Arianespace family: Ariane, Soyuz and Vega:
229 with the Ariane heavy launcher: 11 by Ariane 1, 6 by Ariane 2, 11 by Ariane 3, 116 by Ariane 4 and 85 by Ariane 5.
15 with the Soyuz medium launcher, introduced at CSG in 2011.
6 with the Vega light launcher, first launched from CSG in 2012.
Shortly after the announcement of the orbital injection of the two Galileo satellites today, Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, said: “As the benchmark launch services partner, Arianespace upholds its commitment to guaranteed independent access to space for Europe. This morning’s launch, the seventh for Galileo from the Guiana Space Center and the second of the year for the European Commission and ESA, marks a further step towards European independence in satellite navigation. I would like to thank the European Union, especially the European Commission’s DG GROWTH, as well as the European Space Agency – our direct customer for this launch, for continuing to entrust us with their satellites. I would also like to thank the State Space Corporation Roscosmos for its commitment to our partnership based on the Soyuz launcher, which once again proved its availability and versatility with today’s launch. And of course my thanks go to CNES/CSG and to everybody at the space center, who continue to work alongside us to ensure our ongoing success. And kudos to everybody at Arianespace for this fourth success of the year, which also marks the 250th launch performed from the Guiana Space Center with our family of launchers.”
The Galileo 13 and 14 satellites were built by prime contractor OHB System in Bremen, Germany, with the payloads supplied by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), which is 99% owned by Airbus Defence and Space.
The two satellites weighed 714.7 and 714.9 kg at launch, and will be positioned in a circular medium Earth orbit (MEO), in Plane A, at an altitude of 23,522 km, with an inclination of 57.394 degrees. Their design life exceeds 12 years.