A Soyuz ST-B rocket launch of two Galileo satellites from the Sinnamary launch site near Kourou, French Guiana, went as planned, confirmed Paul Verhoef, head of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) navigation directorate. The two spacecraft were launched into a transfer orbit at 0848 GMT on 24 May 2016. However, having been bitten by late launch failures before, it was not until the second of two burns by the Fregat MT upper stage – to circularise the trajectory into a 23,522km Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and reach an incline of 57.4 degrees to the equator – that officials were willing to stamp the launch a success.
The 718kg Galileo FOC FM-10 and FM-11 spacecraft are just the latest two of 14 Full Operational Capability (FOC) Galileo satellites to be launched into the planned EU/ESA navigation satellite constellation. This will eventually number 24 spacecraft plus six spares in three planes when fully completed. The two new satellites were dubbed Daniele and Alizee respectively after a children’s competition to name them.