After years of delay, the European Union (EU) finally launched its first navigation system into orbit using a Russian rocket. The Associate Press reported on Friday that a Russian rocket launched the first two satellites of the EU's Galileo navigation system. The Galileo navigation system is viewed as a competitor to popular American GPS network.
According to AP, the launch of the Soyuz from French Guiana, on the northern coast of South America, marks the first voyage of the Russian rocket outside the former Soviet Union. The AP report indicates that both European and Russian authorities were present to cheer the liftoff.
The AP report quoted Laurent Wauquiez, France's higher education minister and former deputy minister for European affairs, as saying, “It is a double-page spread in spatial history, European and Russian. 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 commented that it is the first time that two teams work together on the launch of the Soyuz. As per the report, The 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,” wrote AP writer Raf Casert.
Likewise, in a brief statement to officials, Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of Arianespace, the commercial arm of the European Space Agency, said “The first part of this mission went well,” wrote Casert.
As per the AP report, the launch was postponed for 24 hours because of a leaky valve that kept a Russian Soyuz rocket grounded at the launch site in French Guiana.
Although, the Galileo navigation system has become a symbol of EU infighting, inefficiency and delay, officials are hoping it will kick off a trans-Atlantic competition with the American GPS network, Casert wrote.
However, the AP report indicates that there are some more years to wait after the launch of first two satellites before it becomes operational in 2014 as free consumer navigation service. “More specialized services will be rolled out until 2020, when it should be fully operational,” wrote Casert.
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