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European satellite launch challenges GPS

The fully deployed Galileo system will consist of 30 satellites, positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit planes. Credit: ESA

European satellite launch challenges GPS (Reuters)

The European Union launched its first Galileo navigation satellite on
Wednesday, moving to challenge the United States' Global Positioning
System (GPS).

Russian space agency Roskosmos said the 1,300-pound satellite named
Giove-A (Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element) went into its orbit
15,000 miles from the earth after its launch on a Soyuz rocket from the
Baikonur cosmodrome in the middle of Kazakhstan's steppe.

"The launch of Giove is the proof that Europe can deliver ambitious
projects to the benefit of its citizens and companies," EU Transport
Commissioner Jacques Barrot said in a statement.

The $4.27-billion Galileo program, due to go into service in 2008 and
eventually deploy 30 satellites, may end Europe's reliance on GPS and
offer a commercial alternative to the GPS system run by the U.S.
military.

"Radio-navigation based on Galileo will be a feature of everyday life,
helping to avoid traffic jams and tracking dangerous cargos," Barrot
said.

GPS is presently the only worldwide system offering services ranging
from driver assistance to search-and-rescue help. Critics say its
services for civilians offer less precision than those for military or
intelligence purposes.

Galileo's accuracy in positioning is to be 3 feet or less, while GPS's
precision is more than 15 feet.

EU officials also say Galileo would never be switched off for strategic
reasons, which could sometimes be the case with GPS. [read on...]

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