Europe Launches 2 Satellites— Into Wrong Orbit

Apparently, sometimes it takes GPS to launch GPS network
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2014 8:05 AM CDT
The medium-lift VS07 Soyuz rocket lifts off from Kourou, French Guiana, Friday Aug. 22, 2014. The European Space Agency launched two satellites for its new global navigation system.   (AP Photo/P Baudon, European Space Agency)

(Newser) – The European Space Agency on Friday launched a pair of satellites in the hopes of building a GPS network similar to that of the United States. Problem: They apparently took a wrong turn, and ended up in an elliptical orbit that's lower than the circular one they were supposed to land in, reports the Guardian. "While it is too early to determine the exact causes," says the CEO of Arianespace, which launched the satellites aboard a modified Soyuz from French Guiana, "we would like to offer our sincere excuses to ESA and the European Commission for this orbital injection that did not meet expectations."

The satellites would have been the fifth and sixth in the EU's planned 30-satellite Galileo network, which the AP notes is set to be up and running by 2020. It's not yet clear whether the satellites' orbit can be corrected; they carry small motors, but ESA experts are still determining whether they can provide enough of a shove. If not, the head of France's space agency says that future satellites will have to compensate for the loss. (Read more satellite stories.)

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