TWIRL 41: Galileo satellites set to be orbited by ‘Europeanised' Soyuz 2.1b variant

The Galileo logo next to the TWIRL logo

This week we are due to see a tonne of satellite launch missions from various parts of the world. For those who prefer manned launches, you’re out of luck as there aren’t any. Among the satellites being launched, there are two Galileo satellites going up on a modified Soyuz 2.1b rocket and 53 Starlink satellites going up on a Falcon 9 rocket.

Wednesday, December 1

The first launch scheduled for Wednesday will take place in New Zealand. Rocket Lab will launch an Electron rocket carrying several smallsats including ADLER 1, AuroraSat 1, WISA Woodsat, Unicorn 2A, TRSI 2 & 3, and MyRadar 1. It’s unclear what time the mission will be taking off but when it does, there should be a live stream over on Rocket Lab’s website.

The second mission due for launch on Wednesday takes place in French Guyana at 12:35 a.m. UTC (it’ll still be Tuesday in French Guyana). An Arianespace Soyuz ST-B rocket will carry two Galileo satellites into orbit and they will work within the Galileo navigation constellation. The names of these two satellites are Patrick and Shriya. Looking at the list of Galileo satellites on Wikipedia, it’s not known what designation (PRN) the two latest satellites will receive but if you check back there in the future, the page should be updated. Using the GPS Test app on Android will allow you to see which satellites you are connected to, if your phone supports Galileo, you may connect to Patrick and Shriya so be on the lookout for that.

The Soyuz 2.1b rocket being used for the Galileo mission has been adapted from typical Soyuz 2.1b rockets as it has been equipped with a flight termination system and pyrotechnic igniters on the boosters and first stage engines.

The third and final launch on Wednesday will take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 53 Starlink satellites that are equipped with laser com terminals. Once in orbit, they will join the rest of the Starlink constellation to beam internet back down to the planet.

Thursday, December 2

We have just one launch on Thursday; Virgin Orbit will be flying its LauncherOne rocket which will perform an air-launch from the Boeing 747 ‘Cosmic Girl’ carrier aircraft. While the rocket takes off in the air, the plane will launch from the Mojave Air & Space Port. The rocket will carry the Ignis technology demonstration satellite for Astro Digital, ElaNa 29 CubeSats PAN A & PAN B, several STP-27VPB payloads, and the STORK 3 and SteamSat 2 nanosatellites for the Polish company, SatRevolution. This mission is expected to take place between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. UTC.

Sunday, December 5

The final launch of the week will launch from Cape Canaveral Florida between 9:04 a.m. and 11:04 a.m. UTC. A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket will launch the STP-3 mission for the U.S. Air Force to deliver two military spacecraft into orbit; STPSat 6 and LDPE 1 – both of which, carry smaller payloads. The launch will be available on the ULA website.


The first launch of the week was a Long March 4C carrying the second Gaofen-3 satellite which will perform ocean observation and monitor disasters among other things.

You probably saw the next launch on the news. SpaceX launched NASA's DART mission which will eventually hit an asteroid to test Earth’s defences against an asteroid strike.

Next up, Russia launched its Prichal module to boost its capabilities aboard the International Space Station.

On Wednesday, a Kuaizhou-1A rocket launched the Shiyan-11 satellite which will be used for land surveying, urban planning, crop yield estimation, and more.

On Thursday a Soyuz 2.1b launched the Kosmos 2552 satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. The satellite will help protect the country from various missile attacks.

On Friday, a Long March 3B launched the ZhongXing 1D satellite into orbit. The satellite is a communications satellite that will provide high-quality voice, data, radio, and television transmission services.

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Mark Papermaster
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