Arianespace is planning to launch four Galileo navigation satellites abroad Ariane 5 rocket on Dec. 12, the company announced.
The satellites will be deployed into medium Earth orbit from a dispenser system on the Ariane 5 ES launcher version equipped with a re-ignitable upper stage. Galileo is designed to provide a new European global satellite navigation system with precision positioning services under civilian control.
As the latest mission carrying Galileo satellites, Flight VA240 is to be conducted on behalf of the European Commission under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA). The mission is funded by the European Union, with overall responsibility for management and implementation held by the European Commission. ESA is assigned design and development of the new generation of systems and infrastructure.
The upcoming mission is designated Flight VA240 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, denoting the 240thperformed with an Ariane-series vehicle from the Spaceport. It also will be the company’s 11th and final launch in 2017, closing out a busy year of space lift activity.
Arianespace already has launched a total of 18 Galileo spacecraft, including the four orbited by Ariane 5 in November 2016, plus the others lofted by seven preceding medium-lift Soyuz vehicles that carried two satellites each.
Galileo is the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) that is currently being created by the European Union (EU) through the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European GNSS Agency (GSA), headquartered in Prague in the Czech Republic, with two ground operations centres, Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich in Germany and Fucino in Italy.
The €5 billion project is to provide an independent high-precision positioning system so European nations do not have to rely on the Russian GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou or US GPS systems, which could be disabled or degraded by their operators at any time.
The first test satellite, the GIOVE-A, was launched 28 December 2005, while the first satellite to be part of the operational system was launched on 21 October 2011.
Galileo started offering Early Operational Capability (EOC) on 15 December 2016, providing initial services with a weak signal, and is expected to reach Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2019.
As of September 2017, 18 of the planned 30 satellites are operational. The complete 30-satellite system (24 operational and 6 active spares) is expected by 2020.