The commission investigating the fiasco of last week's botched launch of two satellites for the European Union's planned Galileo Global Positioning System began work on Monday with the aim of presenting a preliminary report by Sept. 8.
Arianespace, which was responsible for the launch and placing the satellites in orbit, announced the composition of the commission established in coordination with the European Space Agency, which will operate the Galileo system, and the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.
In addition, given that the launch was made using a Russian Soyuz rocket, operated by Arianespace, Alexander Naniliuk joined the commission as an interlocutor after being tapped for the effort by the Russian Roscosmos space agency.
The task at hand is to clarify how the two satellites - slated to be the first operational pair in the Galileo system - wound up in the wrong orbit.
The commission's official mandate is to "establish the circumstances of the anomaly, identify the causes and aggravating factors (and) make recommendations that allow the identified error to be corrected" with an eye toward resuming the Soyuz missions to be launched from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The two satellites, Doresa and Milena, are in an elliptical orbit some 17,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) above the Earth instead of the circular one in which they were supposed to be placed 23,000 km (14,600 mi.) high.
Doresa and Milena have small motors and limited fuel capacity intended to allow them to make limited orbital adjustments, but they do not have the ability to make a 6,000-kilometer correction.
The next Soyuz flight carrying more Galileo satellites - with the system ultimately being made up of 30 in all - was scheduled for December.
Galileo has a long history of delays that have resulted in enormous cost overruns.
The EU has spent more than 13 billion euros ($17 billion) so far on the project. EFE