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Soyuz launches Galileo satellites, places them in wrong orbit
Posted: Sat, Aug 23, 2014, 10:55 AM ET (1455 GMT)
Soyuz launch of Galileo satellites, August 2014 (ESA) A Soyuz rocket lifted off Friday carrying two European navigation satellites, but a problem with the rocket's upper stage placed them into the wrong orbit. The Soyuz ST-B rocket lifted off from the Guiana Space Center at 8:27 am EDT (1227 GMT) carrying the first two operational Galileo satellites. The rocket's upper stage released the satellites nearly four hours later into what officials initially said were their planned orbits, circular orbits 23,500 kilometers above the Earth at a 55-degree inclination. Late Friday evening, though, ESA and Arianespace officials said that the satellites were not in those orbits but instead in elliptical orbits at a lower inclination. Officials provided no additional details about the problem, but some observers speculate that the Soyuz upper stage may have been oriented in the wrong direction at the time of its final burn. It wasn't clear if the satellites' own thrusters could place them into their proper orbits, and if so, how that would affect their lifetimes. The satellites were the first of 22 operational Galileo spacecraft that will provide position, navigation, and timing data, similar to the GPS and GLONASS systems.
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