European booster rocket Ariane 5 took off Thursday from Kourou, French Guyana. On board were four new satellites for Galileo, Europe’s Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS), according to a rebroadcast of the Arianespace company.
The rocket left the earth as planned for its first launch, at 10:06 a.m. Kourou time; destination: the Galileo constellation.
The booster rocket was specially adapted for this particular mission. Unlike telecommunications satellites that are equipped with propulsion systems providing part of the energy needed to reach orbit, the Galileo geo-tracking satellites must be transported almost to their place of final orbit, at an altitude of 22,900 km.
The mission will last approximately four hours, versus about thirty minutes for telecommunications satellite missions.
If all goes well, 18 satellites of the constellation will be in orbit following this launch.
This is the first time that four Galileo satellites have been launched simultaneously, which constitutes a boost in deployment that should allow the European Commission to provide the first services of the system in the month of December.
As an emblematic project of the European Commission, the Galileo navigation system seeks to reduce the dependence of Europe on the US GPS, while at the same time improving the services provided to users thanks to a high level of precision and dating of the signal.
With Galileo, “the idea is to have, at no expense, positioning accuracy to plus or minus one metre and dating precision of a few billionths of a second”, stated Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of CNES, the French space agency.