Europe’s very own version of GPS is a big step closer to completion today with the launch of four more Galileo navigation satellites.
The constellation now comprises 26 satellites, with 24 being the magic number needed for full services to begin.
The quartet were launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana, and will reach an orbit of 23,000 kilometres.
“With this launch the Galileo project is coming of age,” says Euronews’ Jeremy Wilks. “This is a a civilian-owned, free to use high accuracy European version of the American military’s GPS.
“So what does this mean for you and me – well, if you have a recent smartphone or a new car, then you’re already using the Galileo signal, which is entirely compatible with GPS and Russia’s Glonass. Galileo is different in that it offers higher accuracy – down to 1 metre or less, and that’s important not only for individuals and companies, but also emergency services, and new technologies like driverless cars.”
The €10 billion Galileo service will continue to launch satellites in the future, as it brings the total in space to 30 – enough to have six spare satellites at any given time.
Europe’s own navigation system has had a chequered history of funding challenges, delays, political infighting, malfunctioning clocks and even two satellites launched into the wrong orbit.
The hope, of space engineers, and EU politicians, is that it will show itself to be a long-term bet that paid off.