4 September 2015 When the next pair of Galileo satellites is boosted into orbit next Friday, a team of mission control experts in Darmstadt, Germany, will spring into action, working around the clock to bring the duo through their critical first days in space.
Galileo satellites 9 and 10 are scheduled to lift off at 02:08 GMT (04:08 CEST) on 11 September from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on top of a Soyuz rocket.
This will be the fifth Galileo launch, set to bring the number of satellites in space up to 10. Two more satellites are planned to be launched by year end.
The fiery ascent to space will last just over nine minutes, after which the Fregat upper stage will fire twice to place the satellites into their release orbit.
Separation from Fregat, about 3 hours and 48 minutes into flight, marks the start of the critical early orbits for the team at ESA’s European Space Operation Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
Within the combined flight control team from ESA and France’s CNES space agency, each position is paired with its counterpart from the other agency and mixed ‘CNESOC’ shifts will rotate to conduct operations around the clock.
The same team conducts all the Galileo early operations alternately from ESOC and from the CNES control centre in Toulouse, France.
Team focus during early operations
“Upon separation, the team will be very focused, and we’ll be watching for a number of critical events on the satellites to happen automatically at the right time and in the right order,” says ESA’s Liviu Stefanov, lead flight director for this phase.
“The satellite must switch on, go into a basic flight configuration, deploy its solar wings for power, orient them towards the Sun and acquire Sun-pointing attitude.
As soon as we get communications, we’ll check its health and start sending commands to configure the satellite after completion of the automatic sequence and prepare it for the next major activity: pointing Galileo towards Earth.”
Intense activity around the clock
The intense activity will begin the 10-day early operations phase, during which the joint team will work 24 hours/day to oversee steps to prepare the satellites for handover to the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, for routine operations, and ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium, for detailed payload testing.