The European Space Agency launches the first satellites in the all-important operational phase of its Galileo navigation constellation, two on 22 Aug 2014 and as many as four later in the year.
When all of the planned 30 satellites are in place and operational -- projected for 2019 - Europe navigation system will rival Russia's GLONASS and the United States' GPS systems. Galileo is expected to offer better reception than its rivals in high altitudes and dense urban areas. Two pairs for the test phase of the system were launched in 2011 and 2014 respectively. An Arianespace Soyuz rocket, designated VS09, will carry the August payload. Europe relies on Russian rockets for launching some payloads, and NASA relies on them for transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia's whip hand helps explain some of the disarray in US-EU efforts to punish President Vladimir Putin for his annexation of Crimea in Mar 2014.
Date written/update: 2014-05-15