Galileo Update

Galileo update

Dec 2017 | No Comment

No UK firms for European space contracts due to Brexit uncertainty

British firms are being “excluded” from bidding for lucrative space contracts due to concerns over Brexit. Simon Henley, the president-elect of the Royal Aeronautical Society, told MPs companies have said they are losing out.

He gave the example of the Galileo programme, Europe’s GNSS system, created through the European Space Agency and the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency. UK firms had been “very successful up to date” with regards to work on it, he said.

“But we have had companies now reporting to us that they are being excluded from bidding for contracts on Galileo,” he told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee for a discussion of Brexit implications for the aerospace industry.

“Although membership of the European Space Agency is not part of the EU discussions, because it’s not an EU body, many of the contracts, including Galileo are EU funded,” he added.

Galileo satellites readied for December launch

Europe’s next four Galileo navigation satellites and the Ariane 5 rocket due to lift them into orbit are being readied for their Dec. 12 launch from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

On Nov. 21, Galileo satellites 19–22 were declared ready for flight, along with their Ariane. Combined activities are now under way, culminating in the satellites meeting their rocket in the Final Assembly Building.

The satellites were flown in pairs to French Guiana last month. Once safely unboxed in the Spaceport’s cleanroom environment, they were tested to ensure they had suffered no damage during their transatlantic flights.

Next came their fit check, when they were mechanically and electrically linked one by one to the dispenser that will carry them during their ascent to the target 23,500 km-altitude orbit, before releasing them into space.

Last Friday saw the satellites filled with enough fuel to fine-tune their orbits and orientation during their projected 12-year working lives. Next, they will be attached to their dispenser together for the final time.

In parallel, their customised Ariane 5 is being assembled. Two solid-propellant boosters were mated with its main cryogenic stage before the addition of the interstage that carries the electronics to control the vehicle.

Next came the addition of the storable propellant stage, powered by a reignitable engine, which will deliver the quartet to their target orbit.

Once fully checked, the Ariane will be moved to the final building for the addition of the satellites atop their dispenser, sealed within their protective fairing.

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