Falcon 9 launches the Galileo navigation satellites

WASHINGTON — A Falcon 9 successfully placed a pair of Galileo space navigation satellites into orbit April 27 in a launch that was unusual in several ways.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A at 8:34 p.m. ET, carrying the Galileo GM25 and FM27 satellites. The European Union Space Program Agency, or EUSPA, the EU agency that handles Galileo operations, He confirmed that the satellites were in orbit and working After several hours.

The launch was conducted with a degree of secrecy normally reserved for classified national security launches. SpaceX did not provide any video from the launch after stage separation and ended the webcast after confirming payload separation. The company has deferred the matter to the client for further updates on the assignment.

It was not clear what prompted the increase in secrecy. Previous Galileo satellite launches on Ariane and Soyuz rockets from French Guiana have received greater coverage, as have Falcon 9 launches of Galileo's American counterpart, the Global Positioning System.

Neither the European Commission nor the European Space Agency announced the launch in advance. In statements after the successful launch, European officials said Intentionally avoided Mentioning how to launch satellites.

“Two new Galileo satellites were successfully launched last night,” said Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market. Posted on social media April 28. “Waiting for Ariane6, launches in 2024 are crucial for Galileo’s flexibility, robustness, and the viability of its civil and military applications.”

This statement came closest to an acknowledgment of the reason for launching satellites on the Falcon 9. The retirement of Ariane 5, the loss of access to a Soyuz rocket after the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago, and the delay in introducing Ariane 6 to Europe without its own means of launching Galileo satellites resulted in , a situation that ESA Director General Joseph Aschbacher called a “launch crisis.”

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Breton said in November 2023 that the European Commission was finalizing a deal with SpaceX to launch two Falcon 9 rockets, each carrying two Galileo satellites, scheduled to launch in 2024. He said the value of this contract was 180 million euros (193 million dollar).

This launch was the second European Enterprise mission to fly aboard Falcon 9 due to the ongoing launch crisis, following the launch of the European Space Agency's Euclid Space Telescope in July 2023. Another pair of Galileo satellites will be launched aboard Falcon 9 later this year, Along with a separate launch of a Falcon 9 rocket for the European Space Agency's EarthCARE Earth science mission and the Hera asteroid mission.

For SpaceX, this was the twentieth launchy This booster's flight, hitting a reuse mark set earlier this month by another booster launching a constellation of Starlink satellites. The booster has previously launched missions ranging from a GPS satellite and Intuitive Machines' IM-1 lunar lander to 13 constellations of Starlink satellites.

The launch was also the final mission for this booster, designed B1060. SpaceX said the additional performance required to put Galileo satellites into medium Earth orbit meant the booster could not be recovered. It broke a streak of 146 Falcon 9 launches with booster landings dating back to November 2022, when SpaceX conducted back-to-back Falcon 9 launches carrying geostationary satellites where boosters were used.

The company said after the launch: “We are working to qualify our fleet of Falcon boosters and their interfaces to support 40 missions each,” noting that this launch is the 200th mission.y To use the streamlining of a previously transported load.

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