+++ Update – The two satellites were successfully launched from Europe's spaceport in Kourou on 5 December 2021. +++
Galileo satellites 27 and 28 are on their way. After a further postponement, the launch is now planned for Sunday 5 December 2021, at 01:19 CET. Having reached their orbit at an altitude of 23,222 kilometres, the satellites will operate together with the other satellites in the European satellite navigation system, Galileo, which makes highly accurate navigation signals available worldwide. For the first time, the Galileo Control Center (GCC) at the German Aerospace Center (Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) site in Oberpfaffenhofen will be responsible for the 'Launch and Early Orbit Phase' (LEOP). LEOP covers the first seven to 10 days following separation from the launch vehicle, during which the solar arrays are deployed, the satellites are brought into a stable operating condition, and the drift phase for the intended orbital position is initiated.
The GCC is operated by the DLR Space Applications Institute (Gesellschaft für Raumfahrtanwendungen mbH; GfR) on behalf of Spaceopal GmbH, the Galileo Service Operator, and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). LEOP tasks in earlier launches were carried out by the European Space Agency (ESA) or the French space agency (Centre national d'études spatiales; CNES) under the direction of Spaceopal.
Like their predecessors, the Galileo satellites will be launched from Europe's spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana, South America). Due to unfavourable weather conditions, the launch was postponed at short notice to early on Sunday morning. In the last few days, the two new satellites for the Galileo fleet have been mounted on the upper stage of a Russian Soyuz rocket and are now 'ready for launch'.
Interaction between more than 30 satellites
A Soyuz launcher was also used to take the first two Galileo satellites into orbit 10 years ago. Between 2016 and 2018, European Ariane 5 launchers carried 12 Galileo satellites into space. With the eleventh launch, the commissioning of another two satellites was initiated, bringing the constellation up to 28 operational and spare satellites. The Galileo system is already considered the most accurate satellite navigation system in operation. This accuracy is not only important for transport geolocation, but also for financial transactions, energy supplies and agriculture.
Galileo also makes Europe independent of the satellite systems of other nations, and the civilian system has been providing its services since December 2016. It consists of a global network of satellites in three different orbital planes, controlled from two centres – one in Fucino, Italy, and the other at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen.