EU launches 2nd navigation satellite into orbit
An experimental satellite for a much-delayed European Union rival to the United States's GPS navigation system blasted into orbit Sunday after a successful launch atop a Russian rocket, the Russian and European space agencies said.
The Giove-B satellite shot into space atop a Soyuz-FG rocket launched from the Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan, entering orbit at 8:01 a.m. (10 p.m. ET) as planned, the Russian space agency Roskosmos said.
The EU called the launch a key step toward its planned global satellite navigation system, Galileo. "The launch of Giove-B is the best possible proof that Galileo is well on its way and is the symbol of European excellence in this new and major technology," an EU statement quoted Jacques Barrot, the European Commission's vice-president in charge of transport, as saying.
Barrot and other senior EU officials monitored the launch from the Fucino control centre in Italy. Giove-B is the second satellite to be launched for Galileo. It will test technologies to be used in the system, including an atomic clock the EU says will be the most accurate in space.
Touted as technologically superior to GPS, Galileo is scheduled to be operational by 2013 but has encountered delays. Its first satellite was launched in 2005, but the second missed its late 2006 launch due to a short-circuit in final testing.
Late last year, European Union governments provided a taxpayer bailout after a consortium of private companies from France, Germany, Spain, Britain and Italy walked away from the project in a financing dispute.
Galileo promises to more than double existing GPS coverage, providing navigation for motorists, sailors, pilots and emergency rescue teams. It would improve coverage in high-latitude areas such as northern Europe, and in big cities where skyscrapers can block signals.
Galileo is to include 30 satellites. The next step is the planned launch by 2010 of four operational satellites designed to ensure the system works.