MSG-3 set to ensure quality of Europe’s weather service from geostationary orbit (Image © ESA)
At the end of last week, the latest weather satellite in Europe’s successful Meteosat second-generation project was launched with an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch was made from Europe’s Spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:36 GMT (23:36 CEST) on Thursday, 5 July.
The satellite is currently being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany, and on the 15 July, ten days after launch, the MSG-3 will be handed over to the satellite’s owner, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, EUMETSAT, to commission the payload, once all initial operations are completed.
ATV-3 Edoardo Amaldi on Ariane 5
Yesterday at 04:34 GMT (05:34 CET, 01:34 local), ESA successively launched their new ATV from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, heading towards the International Space Station. The Automated Transfer Vehicle named Edoardo Amaldi, is the most complex spacecraft ever produced in Europe. It’s mission is to deliver essential supplies, and it will also reboost the orbit of the International Space Station’s while it is attached for about five months.
The 20-tonne payload lifted off with the help of a Ariane 5 launcher, operated by Arianespace. The Ariane 5 have on numerous occasion demonstrated its robustness and reliability, and this time was no exception. It started it’s flight over the Atlantic towards the Azores and Europe, where an initial eight-minute burn of Ariane’s upper stage took ATV-3 into a low orbit inclined at 51.6 degrees to the equator. After coasting for about 42 minutes, the upper stage reignited to circularise the orbit at an altitude of 260 km. About 64 minutes into flight, the supply ship separated from the upper stage, and 25 minutes later ATV-3 started deploying its four solar wings, which when completed marked the end of the launch phase.
ESA's new launch Vega take off
ESA’s new launch vehicle Vega is now ready to operate alongside the Ariane 5 and Soyuz launchers, after a successful qualification flight this morning from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The launch was initially planed for the end of January as previously reported on this site, but has been plagued with delays through out its journey. The new launcher passed its final hurdle on Saturday at Europe’s Spaceport, the Launch Readiness Review, and was finally cleared for take off. The first Vega lifted off at 10:00 GMT (11:00 CET, 07:00 local time) from the new launch pad, and conducted a flawless qualification flight.
The first mission, designated VV01 has a payload that consists of two Italian satellites – ASI’s LARES laser relativity satellite and the University of Bologna’s ALMASat-1, as well as seven picosatellites provided by European universities: e-St@r (Italy), Goliat (Romania), MaSat-1 (Hungary), PW-Sat (Poland), Robusta (France), UniCubeSat GG (Italy) and Xatcobeo (Spain).
ESA Vega Launch Vehicle
At the 4th of October the first elements of Europe’s new Vega launch vehicle left Italy and began a long journey to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. This marked the final step towards it’s inaugural flight in January 2012. After several intense weeks of checking the hardware and equipment, the Vega’s Zefiro-23 and Zefiro-9 motors and the AVUM fourth stage were carefully packed and left Avio’s facility in Colleferro, where they were built. The equipment was then loaded onto the MN Colibri, in preparation for its its journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
The equipment for the qualification launcher arrived at the Dégrad de Cannes Harbour in Cayenne, French Guiana, and was then taken by road to Kourou where it arrived at the 24 of October. The launch campaign will then start on 7 November 2011 with the transfer of the first stage to the launch pad. The first launch for the Vega launcher is scheduled for the end of January 2012.
Galileo, Satellite Positioning system
The European global navigation system Galileo, that in the past has been plagued with delays, has moved two small steps closer to it’s initial goal. The European Space Agency (ESA) this Friday launched the first two, of four operational satellites, designed to validate the Galileo concept in both space and on Earth. The launch was made from Kourou, French Guiana, with a Russian Soyuz rocket, that deployed the first two satellites at an altitude of nearly 23 000 km. The fully deployed Galileo system will consist of 30 satellites (27 operational + 3 active spares), positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) planes at 23 222 km altitude above the Earth, and at an inclination of the orbital planes of 56 degrees to the equator.
The initial plans for the Galileo system was to be up and operational by 2014, but several delays and increased budget costs have now moved the end date well beyond that. The first Galileo satellite was planned to be launched at the end of December 2005, followed by a second in 2006. Now 6 years later these first two satellites are finally been delivered in orbit, and two more will follow in 2012 if everything now goes to plan. The European Commission is now looking to complete the 30-satellite constellation by the year 2019, with two new satellites scheduled to launch during every quarter.