Ariane 5 rocket puts European GPS satellites into orbit
KOUROU, France – An Ariane 5 rocket put 4 GPS satellites into orbit on Tuesday, December 12, for Europe's Galileo navigation project, Arianespace said.
The European space workhorse took off at 1836 GMT and deployed the satellites 4 hours after launch.
The Galileo program, when complete, will have 30 satellites in 3 orbital planes by 2020.
If all goes according to plan the system will be able to pinpoint a location on Earth to within a meter – compared to several meters for the United States' GPS and the Russian GLONASS systems.
The civilian-controlled Galileo system, seen as strategically important to Europe, went live in December last year, providing initial services with a weak signal, having taken 17 years at more than triple the original budget to get there.
"With this sixth successful launch of an Ariane 5 in 2017, marking the second mission of the year for the benefit of the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA), Arianespace is proud to guarantee Europe reliable and independent access to space," said Stephane Israel, Arianespace's executive chairman.
The satellites launched Tuesday, each one weighing 715 kilograms (1,590 pounds), were placed into orbit 23,000 kilometers (14,000 miles) from Earth.
The Galileo program is funded and owned by the EU.
The European Commission has overall responsibility for the program, managing and overseeing the implementation of all activities, but the deployment, design and development of the infrastructure is entrusted to the ESA.
The European Commission announced in July that investigators had uncovered the problems behind the failure of atomic clocks onboard satellites already launched as part of the Galileo satnav system.
For months, the ESA had been investigating the reasons behind failing clocks onboard some of the 18 navigation satellites it had already launched for Galileo.
The ESA found after an investigation that its rubidium clocks had a faulty component that could cause a short circuit, according to European sources. – Rappler.com