France: The latest pair of ESA’s Spaceport navigation satellites has reached French Guiana, beginning a new Galileo launch campaign, which will culminate in a launch on 24 May. The 13th and 14th Galileo satellites left ESA’s technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, on Monday, safely cocooned within protective air-conditioned containers.
They were taken by road to Luxembourg Airport, where they were loaded aboard a Boeing 747 argo jet for a dawn takeoff the next morning. The satellites touched down at Cayenne – Félix Eboué Airport in French Guiana at 11:15 on Tuesday local time. Still within their canisters, they were taken by road to the Guiana Space Centre and unboxed that evening, safely within the cleanroom environment of the Centre’s S1A payload preparation building.
The building will remain their home for now, with a ‘fit check’ scheduled next, to ensure the satellites can be attached to the dispenser that will hold them during their ride to orbit and then release into space. To be launched by Soyuz, this pair will join the 12 Galileos already in orbit. A second launch is planned for the autumn, with four satellites carried aloft on a customised Ariane 5 for the first time. That will mean 18 Galileo satellites in orbit by the end of this year.