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Russian launch vehicle takes 2 satellites into orbit from Kourou space center

August 22, 2014, 19:40 UTC+3 PARIS
The probes launched Friday are the first series-produced operational satellites that will assure a full-scale functioning of the European system
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© EPA/KARL-JOSEF HILDENBRAND

PARIS, August 22. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian launch vehicle Soyuz that lifted off from the Kourou space center in French Guiana at 12:27 GMT Friday has brought into space two satellites of the European global navigation system Galileo.

The initial launch was planned for August 21 but it was put off due to complicated weather conditions.

A Fregat-MT booster block was used to bring two Galileo Full Operation Capability probes into space. They will be revolving around Earth along a circular near-earth orbit at an elevation of 23,200 kilometers and the inclination of 55.4 degrees.

The probes launched Friday are the first series-produced operational satellites that will assure a full-scale functioning of the European system. They are joining in space the four IOV satellites that were also launched with the aid of the Soyuzes.

All of them were designed specially for the Galileo system, which is an analogue of the Russian GLONASS and the US GPS systems. The ambitious Galileo project is a brainchild of the European Space Agency.

"The launch of these two satellites initiates Galileo's full operational capability phase,” the European Commission said in a press release quoting Industry and Entrepreneurship Commissioner Ferdinando Nelli Feroci. “It gives new impetus to the Galileo programme, a truly European project which has built on EU countries' resources to maximize the benefits for EU citizens.”

“Galileo operates at a technological frontier and provides applications with huge economic potential, supporting the EU objectives of growth and competitiveness,” Feroci said.

Work in the format of Galileo started out back in 2000 and two experimental GIOVE satellites were launched in 2005 and 2008 respectively. In 2011, the Russian launch vehicle Soyuz-ST-B, which made the first ever liftoff from Kourou then, took into space two permanent satellites that laid the groundwork of the future system.

ESA plans to place eighteen Galileo satellites in orbit by 2015 and the formation of the whole system will be rounded up by 2018, with the total number of its elements in space to reach 30.

For the Soyuz space launchers, this was the ninth launch outside the territory of the former USSR. Russian carrier rockets start off to space from the Kourou space center as of 2011 on the basis of a Russian-French inter-governmental agreement.

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