Galileo's Soyuz launcher fuelling
Formal permission has been granted to begin fuelling the Soyuz ST-B standing ready to launch the first two Galileo satellites into orbit.
The Soyuz ST-B was moved to its launch pad on 14 October and the Upper Composite containing twin Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites was placed on top of it the same day.
On 18 October a complete dress rehearsal for the launch was carried out and the Soyuz passed its Launcher Readiness Review the next day.
Lift off is scheduled for 12:34 CEST (10:34 GMT) today, a precise timing designed to inject the two Galileo satellites into their precise orbital plane. The satellites will be lifted into their final 23 222 km orbit by their Fregat-MT upper stage. They are held in place by a launch dispenser which at 16:26 CEST (14:26 GMT) will deploy them into orbit.
Soyuz from French Guiana
Today’s launch will be historic: the first Soyuz launch from a spaceport outside Baikonur in Kazakhstan or Plesetsk in Russia.
As a medium-class vehicle, Soyuz will complement Ariane and Vega to extend the flexibility and competitiveness of Europe’s launcher family.
These first two Galileo satellites will be followed next year by two more. This quartet, built by a consortium led by EADS Astrium Germany, will form the operational nucleus of the full Galileo satnav constellation.
They combine the best atomic clock ever flown for navigation – accurate to one second in three million years – with a powerful transmitter to broadcast precise navigation signals.