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EU satellites fired into wrong orbit by 'software bug'

Two satellites commissioned by the European Union were accidentally sent into the wrong orbit at launch because of a simple software bug - potentially rendering the multi-million pound devices less capable than intended, or even entirely useless. Galileo is a £4.4 billion European Union project to create an alternative to the United States’ GPS and Russia’s GLONASS satellite positioning systems in case foreign governments ever withdraw access during political disagreements. It will offer ten times higher precision than the civilian GPS signal available to Europeans, giving positions accurate to just one metre. When it is completed in 2019 there will be 30 satellites, three of which will be spares. They will orbit the Earth at a distance of around 23,333km – far beyond the ISS which is around 420km from Earth. The first satellites were launched in 2011 and, on August 22, satellites number five and six were fired into space from French Guiana. But it soon became clear that they had failed to achieve the correct orbit – the Soyuz third stage “space tug” had put them in an elliptical path around our planet rather than a circular one. Now Russian newspaper Izvestia reports that a software error in the upper stage, which was developed by a Russian government-owned corporation, was the likely cause. An anonymous source from Russian space Agency Roscosmos told the paper: “The nonstandard operation of the integrated management system was likely caused by an error in the embedded software. As a result, the upper stage received an incorrect flight assignment, and, operating in full accordance with the embedded software, it has delivered the units to the wrong destination.” via Telegraph.

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