One Soyuz launcher, two Galileo satellites, three successes for Europe
Date: Sat, 10/22/2011 - 12:53
The first pair of satellites for Europe's Galileo global navigation satellite system has been lofted into orbit by the first Russian Soyuz vehicle ever launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana in a milestone mission
The Soyuz VS01 flight, operated by Arianespace, started with liftoff from the new launch complex in French Guiana at 10:30 GMT (12:30 CEST) on 21 October.
All of the Soyuz stages performed perfectly and the Fregat-MT upper stage released the Galileo satellites into their target orbit at 23 222 km altitude, 3 hours 49 minutes after liftoff.
"This launch represents a lot for Europe: we have placed in orbit the first two satellites of Galileo, a system that will position our continent as a world-class player in the strategic domain of satellite navigation, a domain with huge economic perspectives," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.
"Moreover, this historic first launch of a genuine European system like Galileo was performed by the legendary Russian launcher that was used for Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, a launcher that will, from now on, lift off from Europe's Spaceport.
"These two historical events are also symbols of cooperation: cooperation between ESA and Russia, with a strong essential contribution of France; and cooperation between ESA and the European Union, in a joint initiative with the EU".
"This launch consolidates Europe's pivotal role in space cooperation at the global level.
"All that has been possible thanks to the vision and commitment of ESA member states."
This was also the first Soyuz to be launched from a site outside of Baikonur in Kazakhstan or Plesetsk in Russia.
A new site for Soyuz in French Guiana, operated by Arianespace, adds to the flexibility and competitiveness of Europe's fleet of launchers.
Soyuz is a medium-size vehicle, complementing ESA's launchers: Ariane 5 handles large payloads, and the new Vega, planned to debut in 2012, will lift smaller satellites.
Launching from close to the equator allows the European Soyuz to offer improved performance. From French Guiana, Soyuz can carry up to 3 tonnes into the 'geostationary transfer orbit' typically required by commercial telecommunications satellites, compared to the 1.7 tonnes that can be delivered from Baikonur.
The two Galileo satellites riding the Soyuz are part of the In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase that will see the Galileo system's space, ground and user segments extensively tested.
The satellites are now being controlled by a joint ESA and CNES French space agency team in Toulouse, France. After these initial operations, they will be handed over to SpaceOpal, a joint company of the DLR German Aerospace Center and Italy's Telespazio, to undergo 90 days of testing before being commissioned for the IOV phase.
The next two Galileo satellites, completing the IOV quartet, are scheduled for launch in summer 2012.
Galileo, became a reality
Europe's global satellite navigation system, Galileo, became a reality on Friday with the launch of its two first operational satellites on a Soyuz rocket from the European Space station in Kourou, French Giuana. The programme really got under way, after a slow start, when Parliament and Council struck a deal in 2008 to include funding for it in the EU's long-term budget.
European Parliament President Jerz Buzek said “Today marks a milestone for Europe. Having our own state of the art space policy and technology is of strategic importance to the EU. It is high time that Europe becomes independent from other systems and thus strengthens its competitiveness and self-sufficiency".
Herbert Reul (EPP, DE), Chair of the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee, said: "This moment is so important to us, Europeans. First, the two satellites are the starting point for a navigation network that has an enormous economic potential: Galileo is expected to generate economic and social benefits worth around €60-90 billion over the next 20 years. Second, Galileo is a truly European project; no Member States could have developed it alone. Third, it will improve Europeans' safety, daily lives and comfort. And finally, this launch demonstrates our determination to overcome political and financial difficulties. Since the European Parliament and the Council decided in 2008 to complete Galileo using the EU budget, we made much progress. The challenge now is to ensure sufficient funding in the future. Galileo must be operational as quickly as possible, we cannot risk losing ground to our global competitors".
Norbert Glante (S&D, DE), rapporteur on Public Regulated Services (PRS), one of the services to be provided by Galileo once it is operational, said: "We had to wait a long time to see this day. The launch is a positive signal and shows that the Galileo project is progressing. It is the first time that satellites are launched with a Russion launcher from the European Space Port in Kourou. This shows that international cooperation works. But I also would like to see European Ariane launchers being used in the future. From 2014, we will have the first Galileo services".
Aldo Patriciello (EPP, IT) author of a report on EU space strategy to be voted in the Industry, Research and Energy Committee at the end of November, said "Galileo is the first satellite navigation system in the world designed for civilian use, and will enable the European Union to remain independent in a strategically important field. Galileo will combine the best atomic clock ever flown for navigation - accurate to one second in three million years - with a powerful transmitter to broadcast precise navigation data worldwide. Furthermore, Galileo is designed to be fully interoperable with GPS and the Russian Glonass systems".