BERLIN (Reuters) Europe came a step closer to setting up its own satellite navigation system on Friday after successfully launching two Galileo satellites from French Guyana.
The European Space Agency s Galileo project is meant as a European Union alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS. Friday s launch, in Europe s early hours, took the number of satellites sent up to 10 out of a planned total of 30.
“The day of Galileo s full operational capability is approaching,” Jan Woerner, director general of ESA, said in a statement. “It will be a great day for Europe.”
Galileo is due to reach full operational capability by 2020, Joerg Hahn, head of the Galileo system procurement service, said.
Hahn said the total cost of the project up to 2020 was 6.6 billion euros ($7.4 billion), which includes 2.2 billion for the initial validation phase.
The Galileo project suffered a setback last year after two satellites were set in an incorrect orbit. They were later nudged into a more viable position.
The satellites sent up on Friday were on board a Russian Soyuz launcher. They reached their target orbit almost four hours after lift-off.
ESA plans to launch two further Galileo satellites this year.
From next year, Galileo satellites will take off on board a European Ariane rocket launcher that can send up four, rather than two, satellites with a single launch.