European Space Agency (ESA) officials in Paris reported this week an error—specifically, an orbital injection anomaly—in the launch of its two latest satellites under the Galileo program.
Galileo, Europe’s global navigation satellite system, is intended to provide accurate, guaranteed global positioning that is under civilian control. It is interoperable with the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia’s Glonass (which stands for Globalnaya navigatsionnaya sputnikovaya sistema) global satellite navigation system.
Galileo is a safety-critical project designed to enable myriad high-tech applications, including safely landing aircraft, guiding cars, and running trains/rail services. The goal is to deliver dual frequencies as standard, real-time positioning accuracy down to the meter range, guaranteed service availability under all but the most extreme circumstances, and alerting within seconds of any satellite failure.
The Galileo system when fully deployed will consist of 30 satellites—including 27 operational satellites and three active spares—positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) plane.
To date, four satellites are functional in orbit and have validated the Galileo concept in space and on Earth. Following this In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase, additional satellite launches are being made until Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is achieved (roughly in 2015 or 2016).
Once the IOC phase is reached, The Open Service, Search and Rescue and Public Regulated Service will be available with initial performances; the constellation will be built-up beyond that, enabling new services to be tested and made available to achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC).
The 30 satellites were intended to be launched in orbit according to a “carefully-optimized constellation design,” according to ESA officials; yet, something has already gone awry. This mil/aero geek has more on this high-profile news story next.