A software bug caused two satellites launched as part of the European Commission’s (EC) Galileo navigation project to enter the wrong orbit, it has been reported.
A Russian news website, Izvestia, claims that a source close to the project said that a software bug in the Russian-built system used to launch the satellites caused the error. V3 translated the article using Google Translate.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has not commented on the reports, but it did issue a statement on Thursday saying it had full operational control of the satellites. However, it is still clear if they will serve any benefit for the Galileo project from their incorrect orbits.
“Operations continue smoothly for Galileo Sat 5-6. Both satellites now have both sets of their solar arrays fully deployed and generating power,” it said. “The satellites are safely under control, despite having been released on a lower and elliptical orbit instead of the expected circular orbit on 22 August.”
The ESA said its teams are working to understand how the satellites can be used to “maximum advantage”, with the possibility of a recovery mission not ruled out.
V3 contacted the ESA for more information on the situation but had received no reply at the time of publication.
The Galileo project is the EC’s attempt to remove its reliance on satellite navigation systems from the US or Russia, which are under military control so have the risk that access to the data could be removed.
The Galileo project, by contrast, is a civilan system, thereby removing this risk. Using a total of 30 satellites, it aims to provide much more accurate data, to within a few centimetres, which could have benefits for a whole raft of industries.