Updated 03:43 PM EDT, Fri, Oct 22, 2021

Europe Launches GPS Rival 'Galileo' Satellites

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Europe launched two satellites into orbit today that will provide an alternative to GPS. The Galileo Navigation System satellites took off from a space port in French Guiana at 12:27 GMT after bad weather delayed the launch for 24 hours.

Arab News reports that the satellites lifted off using a Russian-built Soyuz from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Kourou space center. The mission will place two additional satellites into orbit, which will bring the mission's total number of orbiters to six, thus taking one more step closer to completion.

The launch was broadcast live on Arianespace's website and can be viewed below.

The satellites separated after 3 hours and 47 minutes into the flight at a reported altitude of 14,600 feet above the Earth's surface. 

According to Arab News, the mission cost a whopping 5.4-billion euro ($7.2 billion) total, and will rival the US-based Global Positioning System (GPS) as well as Russia's Glonass system. The Galileo system will also possess "search and rescue capabilities," reports Arab News. 

Before Friday's launch, two other pairs of Galileo satellites had been put into orbit. The first two launched in October of 2011, and the second two launched in the fall of 2012. In total, Galileo's 'constellation' of satellites will have 27 orbiters total, with three 'reserve' satellites. 

Today's launch of the 5th and 6th orbiters was actually delayed for more than a year because of what the ESA called "technical difficulties in the setting up of the production line and test tools," according to Arab News. 

The ESA has stated previously that 18 satellites should be enough to adequately provide Galileo's users with its promised services by the middle of this decade, and should be fully operational by 2020. 

A deal has also reportedly been reached between the ESA and Arianespace to launch an additional 12 satellites after 2015. According to the ESA, in March of 2013 Galileo's first four orbiters were able to pinpoint a ground location for the first time within a margin of 10 to 15 meters. 

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