Following the failure on Friday August 22nd to inject Galileo satellites 5 and 6 into the correct orbit, the European Commission has requested Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide full details of the incident, together with a schedule and an action plan to rectify the problem.
According to initial information from Arianespace, the problem involved the upper stage of the launcher, as a result of which the satellites were not injected into the required orbit.
The Commission is participating in the Board of Inquiry set up to identify the causes of the problem, which is expected to present preliminary results in the first half of September. This Board of Inquiry will aim to put in place corrective measures at the level of Arianespace to avoid such incidents being repeated with future launches.
ESA has informed the Commission that its Control Centre in Darmstadt (Germany) has the satellites under control, although they are not placed in their intended orbital position. The European Commission is working in close cooperation with the European Space Agency to maximise the possibilities to use the two satellites as part of the Galileo network.
The Commission has set up an internal Task Force to monitor the situation, working in close contact with ESA and Arianespace. Both ESA and Arianespace have been invited to Brussels to present the initial results of their inquiry to European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Ferdinando Nelli Feroci in the first week of September.
Commissioner Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, commented "The problem with the launch of the two Galileo satellites is very unfortunate. The European Commission will participate in an inquiry with ESA to understand the causes of the incident and to verify the extent to which the two satellites could be used for the Galileo programme. I remain convinced of the strategic importance of Galileo and I am confident that the deployment of the constellation of satellites will continue as planned."
Background - benefits of EU's satellite navigation systems
Galileo is the EU's programme to develop a global satellite navigation system under European civilian control. Galileo signals will allow users to know their exact position in time and space with greater precision and reliability than with the currently existing systems. Galileo will be compatible with and, for some of its services, interoperable with existing similar systems, but will be autonomous.
The improved positioning and timing information supplied by Galileo will have positive implications for many services and users in Europe. Products that people use daily, for example in-car navigation devices and mobile phones will benefit from the extra accuracy provided by Galileo. Galileo's satellite navigation data will also benefit critical services for citizens and users, for example it will make road and rail transport systems safer and improve our responses to emergency situations.
Once it has entered into its operational phase, Galileo will also allow the introduction of a wide range of innovative new products and services in other industries and generate economic growth, innovation and highly skilled jobs. In 2013 the annual global market for global navigation satellite products and services was valued at €175 billion and it is expected to grow over the next years to an estimated €237 billion by 2020.
The Commission aims to have the full constellation of 30 Galileo satellites (which includes six in-orbit active spares) in operation before the end of this decade.
To foster economic development and maximise the socio-economic benefits expected from the system, the Commission plans to update the EU's action plan for global navigation satellite system applications and propose new measures to promote the use of Galileo.
Since 2011, four Galileo satellites have been launched and used as part of the In-Orbit Validation phase, allowing the first autonomous position fix to be calculated based on Galileo-only signals in March 2013.
The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) is already bringing practical benefits. EGNOS improves the accuracy and the reliability of signals from existing global navigation satellite systems by correcting signal measurement errors and by providing information about signal integrity. EGNOS is used for example by the aviation industry, to provide the positioning accuracy needed for more precise landings, fewer delays and diversions and more efficient routes in Europe.