Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality

Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away

The European Space Agency's (ESA's) embarrassment at having two of its Galileo satnav birds land in the wrong orbit has been blamed on bad programming of the Soyuz craft that hauled the satellites aloft.

Russia's Izviestia reports that an investigation of the incident found that the Soyuz's first stage did all that was asked of it. So did the second stage, but that vehicle had been programmed incorrectly.

Izviestia quotes sources in the Russian space program that news of the error has reached the office of the Prime Minister, and that highly-placed persons therein are far from happy.

The ESA's yet to comment publicly on the allegation, but did yesterday gave an update on the two satellites. The two craft “now have both sets of their solar arrays fully deployed and generating power” and “are safely under control”.

Boffins are “investigating the possibilities of exploiting the satellites to maximum advantage, despite their non-nominal injection orbits and within the limited propulsion capabilities.”

Once that thinking's been done, “Different scenarios will then be assessed before decisions are taken for a recovery mission.”

If the Izviestia report is correct, recovery of funds from Russia's space agencies looks likely to become another ESA mission. ®

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