Rocket carrying Galileo satellite takes off following delays

The rocket carrying the first two Galileo satellites — which will form part of Europe’s version of GPS — has now been successfully launched from French Guiana.

The mission, scheduled for launch yesterday, was delayed owing to a fuel leak. There were fears that the entire launch process might have to start again if the ground team was unable to prepare the Soyuz rocket in time to meet this morning’s launch window.

However, the rocket departed the Spaceport’s new ELS launch complex at 07:30 local time in French Guiana (12:30 CEST). It will fly for around three hours and 49 minutes, with the separation phase expected at around 16:20 CEST.

With a total payload of 1,580kg, including 700kg for each of the Galileo platforms, the Soyuz rocket is set to deliver the satellites into a 23,222km circular medium-Earth orbit, inclined at 54.7°.

‘The successful launch of two Galileo satellites will start building the initial operational capability of Galileo, which is scheduled for the middle of the decade,’ said Dr Martyn Thomas, an expert on global navigation satellite systems for the Royal Academy of Engineering.  

‘Galileo will interwork with GPS, which will increase coverage and accuracy. It also has several technical characteristics that have been designed to improve resilience and to detect errors and failures.’

Click here to read more on the use and development of the Galileo satellites.