Two satellites that are intended to form part of the European Galileo satellite navigation system went astray from their intended orbit after launch from French Guiana on Friday, satellite launch company Arianespace said. Galileo is being built by Europe as a civil alternative to the U.S. GPS and the Russian GLONASS. The system is designed to be interoperable with GPS and GLONASS. Europe is targeting the technology at a number of applications including location-based services on mobile phones, aviation, and civil protection and surveillance.
Everything started out looking great. At 9:27 am on Friday, August 22, a Soyuz rocket operated by Arianespace lifted off beautifully from French Guiana, making the ninth successful launch for the company using their Soyuz rockets. On board were two ESA Galileo satellites, the 5th and 6th of a planned 30-satellite constellation. The Galileo satellites will provide global positioning services for use in navigation, and are interoperable with the American GPS satellite network and Russian GLONASS system. Unlike those two systems, however, the European Galileo network is primarily intended for civilian rather than military use. The first four were successfully launched by Arianespace, and the company announced on August 20 that it had signed an agreement with ESAto place 12 more of the satellites in orbit beginning in 2015.