Two Galileo satellites, meant to take part in Europe's counterpart to the Global Positioning System (GPS), have been placed into the wrong orbit.

A Soyuz rocket, built by the Russian space agency, lifted the pair of spacecraft off the Earth on 22 August, at 9:27 a.m. local time. The launch took place in French Guiana, managed by aerospace developers Arianespace of Evry-Courcouronnes.

"[O]bservations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit. Investigations are underway," Arianespace officials wrote in a brief press statement on the failure.

Each satellite weighs 1,575 pounds, and the pair was scheduled for launch to an altitude of nearly 14,300 feet. The booster failed to reach that altitude, releasing the devices into a lower-than-expected orbit.

Arianespace immediately undertook their first analysis of data from the unsuccessful flight, completing an initial report on 23 August.

"Arianespace will continue to deploy the 20 other FOC satellites using its Ariane 5 and Soyuz launch-vehicles. Ultimately, the 26 first satellites in the Galileo constellation... will be sent into orbit by Arianespace. The next Galileo launch is scheduled for the last quarter of 2014," the aerospace company reported in a press release provided to reporters after the launch, but before the failure was detected.

Takeoff was delayed for 24 hours due to inclement weather conditions, and the spacecraft was released from the launch vehicle less than four hours after launch.

The satellites, named Milena and Doresa, are still under the control of mission engineers, and do not present an immediate danger to other spacecraft, according to Arianespace. Mission controllers are attempting to re-establish operational capabilities of the two wayward spacecraft, although chances of recovering use of the vehicles is limited.

The vehicles were named by a pair of schoolchildren who won a drawing contest.

The Galileo Constellation system is a $7.2 billion program, designed to rival the GPS system, operated by the United States, as well as the Glonass network, developed by Russia. The European satellites will fly at a greater altitude than their American counterparts, offering better coverage in developed areas.

The system reached an important operational milestone in March 2013, when the network detected the position of its first object, to an accuracy of between 32 and 49 feet. This was accomplished using the first four satellites launched into space as part of the network.

The Galileo system is scheduled to go online in 2017, after the launch of 24 satellites. An additional six vehicles, for use as backup to the network, are also scheduled for launch.

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