Alba and Oriana have been successfully placed into orbit
On September 11, 2015, at 03:08 Central European Time (10.09.2015, 22:08 local time) the European Commission and ESA sent two Galileo satellites, “Alba” and “Oriana” on their journey into orbit. The two satellites were launched into space from the European Space Centre in South American Kourou, French Guiana with a Russian Soyuz rocket.
The flight took a little more than three hours for the satellites to reach their final orbit in MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) at an altitude of 23,222 kilometers.
Once Soyuz brought the satellites to their final orbit, the solar panels fold out to power them. From this point on, they need 14 hours each to go around the earth. The satellites namesakes are drawn once again from two of the boys and girls who won the European Commission’s own Galileo painting contest in 2011.
Immediately after the launch, “Alba” and “Oriana” are in the LEOP phase (Launch and Early Operation Phase). The ESOC Control Centre in Darmstadt which specialises in LEOP carries out this particular phase. There are various tests which are conducted to verify the components of the satellite to full operability and to monitor various other parameters. After approximately five to ten days the LEOP phase is completed and a final handover can take place. This is the so-called command and control handover, where control is assumed by the final satellite operators, the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen. The task of the expert teams in the Galileo Control Centre is then to perform various tests of all systems and bring the satellites via manoeuvers to their final positions.
With ten satellites in orbit, the Galileo Control Centre is the largest satellite navigation operator within Europe. No other European Control Centre has more responsibility for satellites with the same mission – a challenge that the DLR GfR mbH is well prepared for. In August 2014, the DLR GfR mbH has successfully proven that it can also handle highly demanding tasks, such as optimizing the orbit of two satellites, which as a result of a launcher defect, had not reached the correct orbit.
The Galileo satellite system
Galileo is a project of the European Commission (EC). The European Space Agency is negotiating on behalf of the EC, the industrial contracts for the development and construction of the system.
The system requires 30 satellites in order to determine every point on the Earth around the clock, which then allows an even more accurate positioning than the US system GPS. The first four satellites were provided by Airbus Defence and Space in Ottobrunn near Munich, a further 22 FOC satellites are built by the satellite manufacturer OHG Systems AG in Bremen. Another European Commission tender, to decide which company will manufacture the remaining four satellites is scheduled for later this calendar year.
The fleet should reach its full scope in 2020. Through Galileo, Europe will become independent of GPS services (US), GLONASS (Russia) and Beidou (China) services, all of which are controlled by the military. Galileo guarantees that navigation signals are always available.
This year, a total of four of the remaining satellites have now been successfully brought into orbit. Another launch in which a further two Galileo FOC satellites go into orbit, is on the way in December 2015. At the end of the year the Galileo satellite system will consist of 12 satellites. The Managing Directors of DLR GfR mbH, Walter Päffgen and Norbert Paulmann are also eagerly anticipating as well as positively looking forward to the upcoming launch in the Christmas season.