Spaceflights are innately risky, with success never guaranteed. In the past there have been botched launches and failed docking attempts of the crew modules with the International space stations. Since the first human flight 55 years ago when Yuri Gagarin had blasted off to become the first man in space, Space agencies across the world have been enduring failures at a regular rate. If you leave aside the Challenger and Columbia disasters, NASA has weathered some very embarrassing moments when its satellites went silent without any explanation, satellites marooned in orbit, or worse crashed back to Earth.
It is not that only NASA has its share of embarrassing moments. Space Agencies across the globe which includes big names from Russia, Japan, China and the European Space Agency have all goofed up a number of times.
Two satellites Galileo Network, Europe’s alternative for the American GPS satellite navigation system has been placed in the wrong orbit, a goof up which can delay the planned Galileo network. Ariane space agency has initiated an investigation into what had happened and also its impact on the future of the navigation system. The satellites have been parked at a lower orbit and it is not clear if they will function normally or not. ESA has however put a brave face and said that the satellites are under control and an investigation has been launched.
ESA said “Both satellites have been acquired and are safely controlled and operated from ESOC, ESA’s Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. The teams of industries and agencies involved in the early operations of the satellites are investigating the potential implications on the mission.”
The Galileo Project is funded and owned by European Union and the total cost is estimated to be £4.4 billion ($7.2 billion dollars). Galileo is Europe’s answer to the American GPS navigation system or the Glonass system from Russia. The Galileo project will create 15,000 to 20,000 jobs within the European Union, according to the ESA. The Galileo project is intended to provide an alternative in the event of signal failure in the US GPS.