June 16, 2009

ESA Signs Deal With Arianespace For Galileo Sat-Nav Launch

The European Space Agency (ESA) and Paris, France-based launch company Arianespace announced on Monday that they had signed a contract for the launch of four testbed satellites in Europe's Galileo satellite-navigation system.

The two parties made the announcement at the outset of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport.
Although financial details of the agreement were not disclosed, they said the satellites will be launched in pairs by two Russian-built Soyuz launchers from ESA's space center at Kourou, French Guiana, during the second half of 2010.

The first satellites include "in-orbit validation" at a circular altitude of 14,375 miles from Earth to validate Galileo's technology.

"We are full speed on the Galileo program," the AFP news agency quoted ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain as saying during a press conference.

Arianespace, which markets satellite launches with the ESA's Ariane-5, is equipping Kourou with facilities to launch the medium-range Soyuz along with a new, light rocket called Vega.

Budgeted at $4.72 billion, Europe's Galileo sat-nav system is scheduled for operation in 2013 as a rival to Russia's GLONASS system and the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS).

Once fully operational, Galileo will employ up to 30 satellites.

The Giove-A and Giove-B test satellites were launched in December 2005 and April 2008 to validate experimental technology and to fulfill international requirements to reserve radio frequencies.


Image Caption: Ren© Oosterlinck, ESA Director of the Galileo Program and Navigation-related Activities (center), and Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chaiman and CEO Arianespace (left), sign the Galileo In-Orbit Validation Launch Services Contract in the ESA Pavilion at the Paris Air Show, Le Bourget, June 15 2009. Mr Paul Verhoef, Program Manager of EU Satellite Navigation Programs at the European Commission (right), watches the ceremony. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2009


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