Two satellites for Europe’s rival to the American GPS satellite navigation system have gone into the wrong orbit, the European Space Agency (ESA) said yesterday, in a setback for the planned Galileo network.
An investigation has begun into what happened and the impact of the “anomaly”, according to a statement released by Arianespace , the company responsible for the launch.
The satellites “have been placed on a lower orbit than expected”, and it was not yet clear whether they would be able to function normally.
But the ESA said the satellites were under control and an investigation was underway.
“Both satellites have been acquired and are safely controlled and operated from ESOC, ESA’s Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany,” the agency said. “The teams of industries and agencies involved in the early operations of the satellites are investigating the potential implications on the mission.”
The satellites, Doresa and Milena, were fired into space on a Russian-made Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana on Friday, after a 24-hour delay caused by bad weather.
They are the fifth and sixth satellites to be launched for the ESA’s geo-positioning network, following the first two in 2011 and another pair in 2012, and were already more than a year behind schedule.
Arianespace recently announced that it had concluded a deal with the ESA to launch a further 12 satellites beginning next year. In total the Galileo network aims to have 26 operating satellites with a further three reserves.
The total cost of the project is £4.4 billion ($7.2 billion dollars) and it is funded and owned by the European Union.
It is intended to provide Europe with an independent alternative in case of signal failure on the existing US global positioning system or on Russia’s Glonass system. The project will create 15,000 to 20,000 jobs within the EU, according to the ESA.
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