After 8 successful launches from Kourou, the Russian Soyuz rocket experienced its first failure on August 22 with the launch, partly missed, of two FOC (Full Operational Capacity) satellites for the European Galileo geolocation network. Partly, one can write, as they have been placed in the wrong orbit, but in orbit anyway. The investigation is ongoing and it is hoped, in fact, that it was not sabotage. Technological marvels capable of unique precision, these satellites built by the German company OHB-System and its British partner Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. do exacerbate the competition.
With its ground system Egnos, Europe proved its expertise in the field of high technology. It took several years of difficult negotiations for the US government to allow the sharing of GPS data with Galileo and Russian competitor Glonass, thus allowing the user to switch from one system to another. Despite tensions over Ukraine, few people would think that Russia could ever scuttle its Soyuz although Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the CNES and program coordinator, told reporters that, as a precaution, next satellites should be launched aboard an Ariane rocket.
Indeed, the failure could originate in the launcher’s upper stage module, called Fregat, and made in Russia. The Soyuz rocket would be exonerated as a result. With a total budget of EUR 5 to 7 billion, Galileo recorded a loss of at least EUR 150 million because of this incident. However, the goal of placing a fleet of 24 satellites in orbit seems not at risk, since 6 additional ones have been planned in case of such an occurrence. At worst, these two satellites will be used for testing and Galileo will be operational by 2019-2020, possibly generating 10 EUR billion turnover and 20,000 additional jobs.