Double launch of Andriana and Liene – the Galileo family grows to twelve satellites
Aboard a Russian Soyuz launcher two new Galileo satellites named „Andriana“ and „Liene“ were launched from the European Space Centre in Kourou (French Guiana) on 17 December 2015 at 12:51 Central European Time (08:51 local time). As the eleventh and twelfth of 30 satellites, they belong to the so-called deployment phase of the European satellite navigation system Galileo, scheduled to be commissioned in 2020, along with the American GPS system, the Russian GLONASS system and China’s Beidou system in full operation.
René Kleeßen, Galileo program manager at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) explained „this year was the most successful for Galileo, since the number of Galileo satellites in space was doubled from six to twelve resulting from the three satellite launches”
About three hours and 48 minutes after launch, the satellites reached their final orbit in the medium earth orbit at an altitude of 23,222 kilometers. The satellites, each weighing ca. 715kg, are controlled during the first ten days by the French Space Agency (CNES) in a preliminary orbit. Thereafter, the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen assumes control. The DLR GfR mbH expert teams at the Galileo Control Centre perform various tests of all systems and manoeuvres to reach the final position of the satellites. Walter Päffgen, CEO of DLR GfR mbH said „We have prepared for assuming control of new satellites intensively in recent months and are well equipped for the tasks“.
The two satellites are scheduled to circle the earth for twelve years as part of the Galileo fleet. They radiate time signals as with all Galileo satellites, which enable users on Earth to have highly accurate positioning and navigation. As of October 2016, the Ariane 5 rocket is to be used alongside the Russian Soyuz rocket. During a launch Ariane 5 can carry four Galileo satellites into space. So far launches were only possible with two Galileo satellites from the Russian Soyuz rocket.
The deployment phase of Galileo will be commissioned, financed and implemented by the European Commission. In its mission, ESA negotiates industrial agreements for the development and construction of the system. 22 satellites for the deployment phase are built by OHB System AG in Bremen, with the tender for the remaining satellites to be carried out by the European Commission. One of the two Galileo Control Centres is located at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen and the DLR Space Administration in Bonn is responsible for the setting up of the German-wide Galileo test areas GATE.