Europe has four more Galileo navigation satellites in the sky following their launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. After today’s success, only one more launch remains before the Galileo constellation is complete and delivering global coverage.
Ariane 5, operated by Arianespace under contract to ESA, lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 18:36 GMT (19:36 CET, 15:36 local time), carrying Galileo satellites 19–22. The first pair of 715 kg satellites was released almost 3 hours 36 minutes after liftoff, while the second pair separated 20 minutes later.
They were released into their target 22922 km-altitude orbit by the dispenser atop the Ariane 5 upper stage. In the coming days, this quartet will be steered into their final working orbits. There, they will begin around six months of tests – performed by the European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency (GSA) – to check they are ready to join the working Galileo constellation.
This mission brings the Galileo system to 22 satellites.