Two more satellites joined Europe’s Galileo navigation fleet in orbit Thursday after launch from French Guiana aboard a Soyuz rocket, the European Space Agency (ESA) reports.
The two satellites, the 11th and 12th spacecraft in the Galileo constellation, blasted off at 1151:56 GMT (6:51:56 a.m. EST) from the Guiana Space Center in South America, giving the system a dozen of its planned 30 members as the European Commission begins ordering eight more satellites to complete construction of the multibillion-dollar network.
The high-altitude satellite deployment concluded the third Soyuz launch for the Galileo navigation program this year, doubling the number of satellites in the fleet in the process. It was the 13th Soyuz launch from French Guiana under the commercial auspices of Arianespace since the rocket’s debut there in November 2011.
Analogue of the Russian GLONASS and American GPS design of the system was developed by the European Space Agency, with the support of the EU. Work on Galileo began in 2000.
The final formation of the orbital constellation Galileo, according to the plans of the European experts, should be completed in 2020. By that time, 24 satellites will be placed in orbit for the full operation of the system. The next launch of Galileo satellites will take place during the second half of 2016, according to Russian New Agency.