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article imageEurope launches four more Galileo satellites today

By Karen Graham     Jul 25, 2018 in Technology
Europe launched four more Galileo satellites on Wednesday, taking the number in orbit to 26 and moving a step closer to having its own navigation system.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the Galileo satellite system, it is Europe’s own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. Galileo is interoperable with GPS and Glonass, the US and Russian global satellite navigation systems, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
Ariane 5 flight VA244, operated by Arianespace under contract to ESA, lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 11:25 GMT (8:25 a.m. local time), carrying Galileo satellites 23–26.
The Galileo satellite constellation will eventually consist of 24 operational satellites plus six in-orbit spares, each weighing about 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds). Each satellite is equipped with antennae and sensors and powered by two five-square-meter (53.8 square foot) solar wings.
The Galileo satellite navigation system
The Galileo satellite navigation system
Today, the first pair of 715-kilogram satellites was released almost 3 hours 36 minutes after liftoff, while the second pair separated 20 minutes later. The satellites were released into a 22,922 kilometer (14,243 miles)-altitude orbit. In the next few days, the satellites will be steered into their final working orbits by the French space agency CNES.
Then, the quartet of satellites will go through six months of testing by SpaceOpal to verify their operational readiness so they can join the working Galileo constellation. The EU plans on tapping into the global market for satellite navigation services, which it estimates will be worth 250 billion euros (£222.1 billion) by 2022.
European Space Agency/Pierre Carril
In a statement, European Space Agency officials said that "Europe's independent system is made for and operated by civilians. Its lower-precision navigation services are free for anyone to use, and private companies can purchase higher-precision capabilities."
Brexit concerns over Galileo use
There have been multiple setbacks encountered since Europe first decided to launch Galileo 17 years ago, including delays, financing problems, two satellites being put into the wrong orbit and questions about whether Europe really needs a rival system to GPS - we can now add Brexit.
Britain has accused the European Union of shutting British businesses out of the project before Britain's exit from the EU next year, Now the UK is threatening to develop its own navigation system. Former Brexit minister David Davis said last month that shutting out the UK would delay the Galileo project by at least three years.
More about European union, Ariane 5 rocket, Galileo constellation, Gps system, Esa
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