Europe formally put its Galileo satellite navigation project on track to provide a functional service during 2014 and near-global coverage in 2015 with the signing of contracts to build and launch eight more satellites.
The €215 million package, signed today in London by European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, who has championed the Galileo project, with the European Space Agency and its launch contractor Arianespace, includes €255 million to build eight satellites in addition to the 18 already ordered, a €30 million deposit for up to three Ariane 5 launches and €30 million to adapt the Ariane 5 ES launcher to orbit four Galileo satellites simultaneously.
The first two Galileo satelllites were launched in October 2011 by a single Soyuz rocket launch from ESA’s Kourou, French Guiana space centre. A second pair will be orbited by Soyuz by the end of thus summer.
But from the second half of 2014, a requalified Ariane launcher – know as Ariane 5 ES Galileo – should be equipped with a four-satellite dispenser and be capable of delivering the spacecraft to orbital altitudes of 23,222km. The current ES launcher is used to launch ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle to the International Space Station at around ...