Anatomy of a Galileo launch

Many months of sustained effort goes into each and every Galileo launch, shown in this sequence of pictures selected from the four Galileo launches so far. The navigation payloads for each satellite are manufactured at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in the UK, which are then integrated to their satellite platforms at OHB in Germany. Next comes the rigorous test campaign to ensure the satellites can operate as planned in space, which takes place at ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in the Netherlands.

The four-stage Soyuz ST-B launcher which deploys each pair of Galileo satellites into medium-Earth orbit is constructed in Russia, then sailed from St. Petersburg to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Once the Galileo satellites have passed testing they are transported by air to French Guiana, so the launch campaign proper can begin. The first three stages of the Soyuz are assembled horizontally, then raised vertically onto the launch pad.
Meanwhile the Galileo satellites are first fuelled for their 12-year working life then attached together on a launch dispenser, after which they are placed on the Soyuz’s Fregat upper stage. Finally the complete ‘upper composite’ is encapsulated within the launcher fairing, then hauled to the launch pad to be placed on top of the Soyuz launcher.

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