back to article Galileo can't do the fandango: Two Euro GPS nav sats sent into WRONG ORBIT

Two Galileo satellites have been blasted into the wrong orbit, red-faced officials at the European Space Agency said today. Errant sats Doresa and Milena were launched on a Russian-built Soyuz rocket on Friday. But launch service outfit Arianespace admitted that the satellites failed to go into the correct orbit. " …

  1. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton


    30 orbital birds? By 2017?

    Aren't they (ESA that is) 14 years behind schedule anyway?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Que?

      If they don't get the constellation working, the chinese Beidou-2 system (formerly known as COMPASS) will take the frequencies, which would cause more delays as systems would then need rejigging.

      There are 2 fully working GPS systems up there (navstar, glonass) 2 being built (galilleo, beidou-2) , at least 2 more planned (France, Japan) and 2 regional ones already in place (inrss, beidou-1)

      The Indians may yet expand INRSS to a full GPS setup, but they're concentrating on their own backyard in the first instance.

      What's surprising is despite the "competition" between the various systems (there's a hell of a lot of "flag waving" going on), there's also a good degree of cooperation in terms of both standardisation of data streams and transmission frequencies and collaboration between design teams - what that means is that an appropriately setup GPS receiver will be able to listen to all systems without having to run over-complex multiple-RF setups and that problems encountered by one consortium will be solved amongst all of them.

  2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Look up to the skies and see

    Little high, little low

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Reading between the lines

    My reading of the press release is that the rocket put the satellites into the orbit it was told to. However someone told the rocket the wrong obit.


    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "Sometimes wish I never gone up at all"

      > the wrong obit.

      Sadness all around!

      At least this time it's not feet vs. meter.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: "Sometimes wish I never gone up at all"

        "At least this time it's not feet vs. meter."


        Metre - a metre is a distance, a meter is used to measure something.

        Stupid USians - the order of letters in a word is important.

        1. Pat Volk

          Re: "Sometimes wish I never gone up at all"

          Also, what about music (the metronome which clicks off the metre of the music)?

          Also, is it meter or metre for Shakespeare's sonnets (iambic pentameter)?

          Who is Zed, and why is he in your alphabet?

          Stupid English speakers who argue the order of letters, but the pronunciation not so much. Prove, Proof, Provide (prostitute and process). Hove, hoof, hover. Wind and wind. Read and read.

          (a Yank with Canadian spell check... Colour is ok, color is not. Ok is not ok. Admit it, the ou and -re is a desire to be french...)

          1. Gazman

            Re: "Sometimes wish I never gone up at all"

            @Pat Volk

            Please ignore the 'Little Englanders' on spellings (and on most other things).

            While it pains me to say it, the US spellings without the Frenchification are correct - Noah Webster (your original dictionary guy) stuck firmly to the basics.

            Meanwhile, Dr Samuel Johnson (our original dictionary guy), great brainbox though he was, was a glutton for Frenchification and stuck in many of the surplus letters that we now see (e.g. 'color' was quite acceptable in British English until Johnson messed it up, 'ax' without the silent 'e' was also fine, etc., etc., etc.).

            Also, while I think of it, the US has 'pants' correct - as an abbreviation of 'pantaloons', the reference is properly to outer leggings. The current British usage of 'pants' for undergarments (derived wholly improperly in this context from 'underpants') is a vile neologism to be roundly and robustly deprecated at all times.

            1. Captain Scarlet

              Re: "Sometimes wish I never gone up at all"

              Trousers not Pants.

              Marvellous that's sorted then, time for a Cuppa.


  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Attack of the space Geckos

    As Reg readers are well aware, russian space launches have been plagued by mischievous geckos dying for a 0 gravity bonk. Methinks they pirated this launch to meet and mate with their mates already in orbit !

  5. DasBub

    Still good, though?

    Presumably the lower orbits would mean a shorter lifespan for the satellites, but they should still be perfectly usable in the mean time. Am I wrong?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: perfectly usable

        Positioning satellites like Galileo can't be geostationary--too far away. Instead, these constellations go into Medium Earth Orbit (MEO, about halfway between LEO and GEO) and account for their movement by numbers.

        Based on what I understand about Galileo, with the satellites in the wrong orbits, they won't synchronize with the rest of the satellites. I suspect they'll need to be reprogrammed for their new locations, with new formulas, coordinates, etc. calculated for them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: perfectly usable

          Thank you.

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: perfectly usable

        No escape from r̶e̶a̶l̶i̶t̶y̶ gravity

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That'll likely be two replacements needed, either straight away or at least before planned end of life.

    But it'll likely not impact on the initial usability of the system. They've almost certainly planned the coverage so that there'll be more satellites in view than are required for a position fix.

  7. ecofeco Silver badge

    So they are rushing the schedule?

    To badly paraphrase and mashup an old saying or two:

    "Haste in space makes waste."

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: So they are rushing the schedule?

      They've booked some Ariane 5s to launch lots of the remaining satellites each time. Ariane 5's reliability is very good so they're not going to be taking too much of a risk of launch wastage.

  8. publius

    They just need a little delta-V

    It's going to cost a lot of station-keeping propellant to boost the orbit and shift the inclination. Presumably, they are now doing the calculations to see if it's worth it. The trick is to give a ittle push (delta V) - in the right direction - each time the satellites reach just the right point in their orbit. Eventually, they will get up to the right altitude, then the orbits will be circularized with a similar technique. If this process takes too much manuevering fuel, they will probably be de-orbited to avoid creating space junk. Their current orbits are low enough that atmospheric drag will get them eventually, but it would take a long time from 20,000-odd km up.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they used imperial instead of metric.

    1. cray74

      "Maybe they used imperial instead of metric."

      Lockheed wasn't the prime contractor, so they're probably safe in that respect.

  10. Gary F

    The wrong orbit location was due to a GPS error. You can never completely trust those things for getting you to where you want to be.

    1. Allan George Dyer
      Black Helicopters

      I was going to suggest deliberate sabotage by GPS, but your's is more likely.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Ayy lmao

        Yep, better ask directions at the nearest Space Inn.

        1. Clive Harris

          Re: better ask directions at the nearest Space Inn

          Dunno where to find the nearest Space Inn, but there's a Space Bar right in front of me.

  11. Graham Marsden

    Wrong orbit? Come on guys, it's not rocket sci...

    ... erm, ah, sorry, nothing to see here. Move along!

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Rocket science is easy

      Rocket ENGINEERING is very, VERY hard.

      Just as well there are 28 more birds ready to go, for a 26-satellite constellation.

      You'd almost think they'd planned to have a couple go wrong somewhere along the line.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    This would never have happened if the satellites...

    were placed in orbit using proper GPS coordinates!


  13. Winkypop Silver badge

    Round and round they go

    Where they orbit, nobody knows...

  14. iRadiate

    perhaps it was deliberate

    As a reaction to the Ukrainian situation. Russia has already said they won't be buying food from the EU for the next 12 months. Now they mess up two satellites...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: perhaps it was deliberate

      That can be completely ruled out. Russia is trying to show the EU that it should build the relationship. If Soyuz is insufficiently reliable, that's just another reason to cold-shoulder Russia, not to reverse sanctions.

  15. Steve 114

    Good thing too

    Brussels is planning to use them for road-pricing. On every road. Oh yes they are.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Good thing too

      Excuse me? I'm already paying through the nose for overpriced roads.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good thing too

        > Excuse me? I'm already paying through the nose for overpriced roads.

        Yes, and the gents in Brussels have now realised that you still have a few more orifices left.

  16. F111F

    Maybe They Used

    The old version of Apple Maps?

  17. Rizzla

    Perhaps the Soyuz was using GLONASS and it had 'dithering' turned on......Putin must be laughing his ass off......

  18. Turtle

    Ambition, Or, How The Toilers Fulfilled The Five-Year Plan In Three Years Eleven Months.

    "As The Register reported on Friday, ESA boffins are increasing the frequency of launches to get the entire network of 30 orbital birds ready by 2017 – an ambitious three years ahead of schedule."

    Not a problem because, as we all know, there's never time to do it right, but there's always time to do it over.

  19. Cipher


    ...determined the optimal orbits for its needs and made corrections.

  20. Anonymous John

    Why not ask SpaceX?

    How many could next year's Falcon Heavy launch in one go?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Why not ask SpaceX?

      Well I believe that the normal approach will be to launch the sats in groups of 4 on Ariane 5 (which has an excellent record for very precise orbits). However, they wanted to launch fewer for the first launch to test out the design of the satellite to allow the following satellites to be modified if required. Hopefully, the booked Ariane launches will go without a hitch. Note that SpaceX has also failed to deliver 2 payloads to their correct orbits.

      Also the European union /ESA probably would prefer to use Ariane because it helps to assure European access to space (Ariane was originally developed because the US said that Europeans could launch sats on their rockets, but would not be allowed to keep any money made by the satellites - imagine how the telecoms market would look in that case). This may be seen as similar to SpaceX receiving a large amount of cash so that the US can launch cargo/people to the ISS without using Russian launchers, or satellite manufacturers in the US being banned from using launches provided by the Chinese.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. JaitcH

    Could they be GCHQ ElInt satellites disguised as Galileo?

    Perhaps these are actually GCHQ electronic intelligence gathering satellites, busy doing what GCHQ does?

    Do they have permission to occupy these slots in the firmament? Wonder what the ITU is going to have them do?

    Or was it yet another case of mixing Metric up with Imperial measurements?

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