The first two GALILEO In Orbit Validation (IOV) satellites have been launched successfully from the European Space Port in Kourou, French Guyana, on Friday October 21, 2011. This launch was a double success as besides being the very first true GALILEO launch it was also the first launch of a Soyuz rocket from Kourou. Despite all these "firsts", which is always a bit exciting in the aerospace industry, everything worked picture prefect. The satellites were injected into the planned orbits.
The satellite are now in what is called the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP). Currently the satellites are slowly drifting towards their orbital positions and therefore also drifting apart. To get their relative positions correct the two satellites will have to be separated by 40 degrees in their argument of latitude. This will take a couple of days of "drifting" to accomplish. After this drifting phase both satellites will make a number of small manoeuvres to get into their nominal orbit position with very high accuracy. Once in their nominal orbits the GALILEO satellites are expected to need at most one station keeping manoeuvre in their nominal life time of 20 years.
At long last Europe has become one of the players in the GNSS field! Personally I am very much looking forward to working with the first observational data of these brand new satellites which mark a new era for the GNSS industry.