The seventh and eighth Galileo satellites, set for launch together in nine days’ time, have been fitted together onto the dispenser that will carry them during their flight to orbit.
The fuelling of the two satellites was completed last week, leaving them ready to be placed into launch configuration. They were carefully lowered into place then attached to the dispenser.
The operation went smoothly, the two satellites having previously gone through separate ‘fit checks’ with the dispenser in advance of fuelling.
The specially designed carrier will hold the satellites in place during their four-hour flight into orbit some 22 300 km above our planet. Then, at the correct altitude, the two satellites are sprung away in opposing directions.
Next, the dispenser plus satellites will be placed onto the Fregat upper stage of their Soyuz ST-B launcher.
As much a spacecraft as a launch stage, the reignitable Fregat will haul the Galileo satellites most of the way up to their final orbital altitude, once the first three stages of the Soyuz have taken them up to their initial orbit.
Note the protective metal panels covering the solar wings folded against the sides of the Galileo satellites.
Protecting these delicate solar arrays during handling on the ground, these panels will be removed ahead of launch.
The launch of the seventh and eighth Galileo satellites is scheduled on Friday, 27 March.