Germany, November 11, 2014: ESA’s fifth Galileo navigation satellite, one of two left in the wrong orbit earlier this year, will make a series of maneuvers this month as a prelude to its health being confirmed. The aim is to raise the lowest point of its orbit – its perigee – to reduce the radiation exposure from the Van Allen radiation belts surrounding Earth, as well as to put it into a more useful orbit for navigation purposes.
During November, some 15 manoeuvres will take the satellite into its new orbit. Once there, it can formally begin in-orbit testing; followed by more detailed navigation payload testing. The two satellites, however, have only enough fuel to lift their altitude by about 4000 km, which is insufficient to correct their orbits entirely. Should the two-week operation prove successful then the sixth Galileo satellite will follow the same route.
“Right now, when the satellite dips to its lowest point, Earth appears so large that the sensor is unusable. The satellite relies on gyroscopes alone, degrading its attitude precision,” a senior official at ESA told media.
The recovery would be overseen from the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, with the assistance of ESA’s Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany.