A Russian-made Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana for Arianespace has placed two European Galileo GPS satellites into the wrong orbit.
Russianspaceweb suggests that the problem was caused by the rocket’s Russian Fregat upper stage. (Scroll down about halfway to read their report on this launch.)
Multiple independent sources analyzing the situation suggested that the Fregat upper stage had fired its engine for the right duration, however the stage’s orientation in space during the second or both maneuvers had probably been wrong. According to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a veteran space historian, the Fregat’s angular orientation error during engine firing could reach as much as 145 degrees.
This failure is a triple whammy. It hits both Arianespace and Russia since the Soyuz was part of a partnership between the two. It also hits Europe’s Galileo GPS satellite, which after many years of development was beginning to move towards full operation.
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