Woopsie – looks like you just launched a satellite into the wrong flight path. When you work for the ESA (European Space Agency) and you accidentally launch a satellite into the wrong orbit around the Earth, you report it, and you make a big deal about it. In this case, the team is “examining the implications.”
There are thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth right now, and at any given time inside the past several decades. When you launch a satellite into orbit, there’s an OK chance you’ll end up flying near another satellite at some point.
You don’t build satellites out of tin foil, needless to say – but you still need to try to avoid collisions as much as possible. In this case, the latest two satellites launched by the ESA have gone into orbit lower than expected.
According to the BBC, these are the 5th and 6th satellites to go into orbit, every one before now having gone exactly where they were meant to go – as have the 7th and 8th. The whole lot is part of the EU’s Galileo Mission, launched here by the ESA as part of a 26-satellite constellation projected to be in orbit by the year 2017.
Galileo aims to create a Europe-based system not unlike GPS, allowing companies across the nation to work with global positioning without relying on the USA or Russia. The United States uses GPS, while Russia uses GLONASS.