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PARIS, September 11. /TASS/. A Russian-made Soyuz rocket has successfully blasted off from French Guiana bearing two new satellites for Europe’s Galileo global positioning system.
It is the twelfth time that Soyuz has taken off from a launch pad at Europe's space base near Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America.
The Soyuz-ST carrier rocket lifted off at 23:08 local time (02:08 GMT), with the Galileo satellites due to separate from the rocket's upper-stage three-and-a-half hours after that.
The satellites Sat-9 and Sat-10 will be the fifth and sixth operational ones in the Galileo group. Their successful placement in orbit will bring to ten the number of Galileo satellites deployed out of a planned total of 30.
Europe's version of Russia's GLONASS positioning system and the American GPS satellite navigation system, Galileo is a project of the European Commission and the European Space Agency.
If all goes to plan, the Galileo satellite constellation is expected to be completed in 2020. According to Didier Faivre, Galileo program director with the European Space Agency (ESA), the full-scale operation of the system will begin after 24 satellites have been inserted into orbit.
However, the agency has ordered 26 satellites already now, with the number to increase up to 30 in the future. "We want six backup satellites," Faivre said.
A large-scale program like that certainly calls for substantial investment. To date, the European Union has spent over 5 billion euros on the Galileo program, with 7 billion euros more expected to be set aside for this purpose until 2020.