Europe launches its rival to GPS
Updated: 2005-12-29 07:01
Russian rocket carrying a satellite of the
Galileo network blasts off into the sky at Baikonur cosmodrome in
Kazakhstan December 28, 2005. The rocket carried the first of what
European states hope will be a network of satellites that will create a
global navigation system. [Xinhua]
Europe Wednesday took a major step forward in launching competition to the
Global Positioning System (GPS) of the United States.
The first satellite in the European Union's Galileo satellite navigation
programme was launched from Kazakhstan a move widely seen as an answer to the
dominant GPS controlled by the US military.
The satellite, named "Giove A," took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in
Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket on schedule at 11:19 am local time (1:19 pm,
After the launch amid clear skies, ground control teams were waiting to
establish communication with the satellite.
Journalists monitored the liftoff through a link-up at the headquarters of
the European Space Agency, or ESA, in Paris.
The 3.4 billion euro (US$4 billion) Galileo project in which China has a
stake will eventually use about 30 satellites and end Europe's reliance on the
Last year, US President George W. Bush ordered plans for temporarily
disabling GPS satellites during national crises to prevent terrorists from using
the navigational technology.
Galileo is under civilian control. The European Space Agency says it will
guarantee operation at all times, except in case of "the direst emergency."
"Galileo is made in Europe by Europeans," ESA spokesman Franco Bonacina said.
For now, "If the Americans want to scramble GPS, they can do it whenever they
The satellite launch was originally scheduled for December 26 but was delayed
because of a technical problem in the ground station network.
In orbit, Giove A will test atomic clocks and navigation signals, secure
Galileo's frequencies in space and allow scientists to monitor how radiation
affects the craft.
A second satellite named "Giove B" "Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element" will
be placed in orbit in the coming spring.