In this photo released Thursday, Sept.22, 2011 by European Space Agency, the European rocket Ariane carrying telecommunications satellites lifts off from South America after a one-day delay caused by a strike, Wednesday Sept.21, 2011. Arianespace says its Ariane 5 rocket released the first satellite for the Arab Satellite Communications Organization into orbit about 27 minutes after taking off Wednesday from the launch center in Kourou French Guiana. (AP Photo/JM Guillon, ESA)
(AP) — A Russian rocket launched the first two satellites of the
European Union’s Galileo navigation system Friday after years of waiting
for the start of the program billed as the main rival to the ubiquitous
American GPS network.
launch of the Soyuz from French Guiana, on the northern coast of South
America, marks the maiden voyage of the Russian rocket outside the
former Soviet Union, with European and Russian authorities cheering at
is a double-page spread in spatial history, European and Russian,” said
Laurent Wauquiez, France’s higher education minister and former deputy
minister for European affairs. “It is without doubt one of the most
beautiful stories of cooperation… This gives us strength and an
extraordinary competitive advantage in the spatial domain.”
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said it is the first time that two teams work together on the launch of the Soyuz.
rocket is expected to place into orbit the Galileo IOV-1 PFM and FM2
satellites during a nearly four-hour mission. The two satellites will be
released in opposite directions.
first part of this mission went well,” Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and
CEO of Arianespace, the commercial arm of the European Space Agency,
said in a brief statement to officials before returning to the control
He said the rocket is expected to travel over Asia, Indonesia and the Indian Ocean.
Tajani, the EU’s industry and enterprise commissioner, called the
launch “a great result” that sends “a very strong political message.”
“Europe shows that she is capable of managing a big project just days from the European economic summit,” he said.
EU had all the pomp and speeches about the dawning of a new age
prepared for Thursday, but was forced to postpone it for 24 hours
because of a leaky valve that kept a Russian Soyuz rocket grounded at
the launch site in French Guiana.
Galileo system has become a symbol of EU infighting, inefficiency and
delay, but officials are hoping it will kick off a trans-Atlantic
competition with the American GPS network.
has become the global consumer standard in satellite navigation over
the past decade, reducing the need for awkward oversized maps and
arguments with back seat drivers about whether to turn left or right.
the EU wants Galileo to dominate the future with a system that is more
precise and more reliable than GPS, while controlled by civil
authorities. It foresees applications ranging from precision seeding on
farmland to pinpoint positioning for search-and-rescue missions. On top
of that, the EU hopes it will reap a financial windfall.
Europe wants to be competitive and independent in the future, the EU
needs to have its own satellite navigation system to also create new
economic opportunities”, said Herbert Reul, head of the EU parliament’s
industry, research and energy committee.
are still several more years to wait, but the satellite launch is a
major step in getting Galileo on track. It will start operating in 2014
as a free consumer navigation service, with more specialized services to
be rolled out until 2020, when it should be fully operational.
After the initial launch, two satellites will go up every quarter as of the end of 2012 until all 30 satellites are up.
EU hopes its economic impact will stand at about euro90 billion ($125
billion) in industrial revenues and public benefits over the next two
idea for the program first rallied support in the late 1990s, and its
development has been pushed back with delays ever since. When it became
clear in 2008 that private investors weren’t lining up to finance
Galileo, the EU decided taxpayers would underwrite most of the program.
European Commission said development and deployment since 2003 is
estimated at well over euro5 billion ($6.8 billion). Maintaining and
completing the system is expected to cost euro1 billion ($1.35 billion) a
Critics have said the cost overruns were much higher.
from celebrating,” officials “who have supported Galileo should be
making a public apology to taxpayers for this shocking waste of time,
effort and resources,” EU legislator Marta Andreasen of the anti-Euro
UKIP party said.
hope to delay the launch of the Russian Soyuz rocket by only 24 hours,
although a new date will be announced once the investigation is
complete, said Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of Arianespace, the
commercial arm of the European Space Agency.
The launch was originally scheduled for last year, but adverse weather kept delaying construction of the Soyuz facility.
Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Kerwin Alcide in Cayenne, French Guiana, contributed to this story.
SOURCE: The Associated Press