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Nav satellites go astray

Aug 26, 2014
Carrying two satellites for Europe's Galileo navigation system, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from French Guiana.

Carrying two satellites for Europe's Galileo navigation system, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from French Guiana.

ESA/CNES/Arianespace

The European Union's Galileo satellite system is intended to provide precise navigation signals similar to GPS. Two of the Galileo satellites had a few problems finding their intended orbits, however. After a Friday, Aug. 22  launch from the European Space Agency (ESA) spaceport in French Guiana, the satellites ended up in different orbits than those planned by ESA. The two spacecraft had different orbital incliniations and altitudes than those designed for the satellite constellation. The launch involved a Soyuz rocket and early analysis suggests that the Fregat upper stage of the Soyuz made have been responsible for the error. ESA officials are still trying to determine if the two satellites can be used as part of the projected 30-satellite Galileo constellation, or if replacements will need to be launched.

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