Two Galileo Satellites Launched by ESA Are in Wrong Orbit

Aug 23, 2014 07:54 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

Two satellites launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of its mission to create a European version of America's global navigation system (GPS) are in the wrong orbit.

The satellites, named Doresa and Milena, are the fifth and sixth of 30 due in orbit by 2017. They were launched on Friday from French Guiana aboard a Russian Soyuz ST-B rocket, said manufacturer Arianespace.

The launch had been delayed 24 hours due to poor weather.

Originally the ESA estimated the satellites reached the correct orbit at a distance of 14,600 miles from Earth, at an angle of 55 degrees to the equator. U.S. Air Force data showed what it believes are the two satellites at a distance of 8,500 miles and at an angle of 49.7 degrees from the equator.

"Complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit. Investigations are underway. More information will be provided after a first flight data analysis to be completed on August 23, 2014," said a statement posted on the Arianespace website.

Once completed Galileo will work in conjunction with both GPS and Russia's Glonass system.

The ESA is investing approximately €10 billion in Galileo in the hope its great accuracy in global positioning will interest new businesses.

When fully operational, the system will be able to provide real-time positioning to within a meter on the ground from outer space, according to recent estimates.

"We're getting there a bit late, but when it is up and running it will be a far better system than GPS. It has much better precision and the €10bn [£8bn, $13.2bn] price tag will be very cost effective," said aerospace expert Philippe Baumard, according to the International Business Times.

Arianespace hasn't said yet whether the Doresa and Milean retain enough fuel in their on board propulsion systems to correct their orbits, or what the long-term effects will be on the Galileo project if they can't be moved to their correct positions.

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