After weather delays, a Russian-built Soyuz ST-b/Fregat MT launch vehicle on flight VS-26 operated by Arianespace and commissioned by ESA, lifted off with the pair of 715 kg Galileo navigation satellites from Sinnamary, near Kourou, French Guiana at 0019 GMT on 5 December. The satellite pair Galileosat 27 and 28 (Galileo-FOC FM 23 and 24) were placed into an orbit close to the target 23,525 km orbit which will allow adjustment to their operating Medium Earth Orbit of 23,222 km. As they do so they will be tested.
From this pair onwards, Galileo satellites will be operated by SpaceOpal from Galileo’s own control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, on behalf of the EU/ESA project. The satellites use an improved version of the “Full Operational Capability” Smart MEO design and were manufactured and tested by OHB in Germany, with navigation payloads coming from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in the UK. These two plus ten more Galileo first generation satellites yet to be launched will use this design until the new G2G Galileo satellites are introduced in 2024.