PARIS, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- A new pair of Galileo satellites, Galileo 5 and 6, has been successfully delivered into orbit on Friday, which marks the start of a new phase in the European satellite navigation program, said the European Space Agency (ESA) in a press release.
Galileo 5-6 satellites, which are the first two of a series of 22 satellites FOC (Full operational capability) built by prime contractor OHB-System (Germany) with the payloads being supplied by SSTL (Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, UK), were carried aloft on a Soyuz rocket from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 12:27 GMT on Friday.
All the stages of the Soyuz vehicle performed as planned, with the Fregat upper stage releasing the satellites into their target orbit close to 23,500 km altitude, three hours 47 minutes after liftoff, said the ESA.
On completion of the initial checks, run jointly by ESA and the French space agency CNES, the two satellites will be handed over to the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany, and the Galileo in-orbit Testing facility in Redu in Belgium for testing before they are commissioned for operational service in the autumn, explained the ESA.
Following the successful qualification of the system during the In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase, achieved with four satellites launched in 2011 and 2012, the Galileo satellites are being produced and readied for the launch pad in series.
The deployment of the constellation will now gather pace, with six to eight satellites launched per year using a series of Soyuz and Ariane launches from the Guiana Space Centre, along with finalisation of the remaining elements of the ground network, added the ESA, saying that the next Galileo lunch is scheduled for the last quarter of 2014.
Galileo is Europe's own global satellite navigation system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. It will consist of 30 satellites and their ground infrastructure.