Europe’s satnav service finally off the ground

European officials were today playing down years of delays and overspend as the first of the European Space Agency’s geo-positioning system satellites blasted off.

Europe's satnav service finally off the ground

The Galileo project is designed to improve location accuracy and close the chapter on Europe’s dependence on the GPS system, which is run by the US military.

Years behind schedule and an estimated €2bn over budget, the first two satellites took their place in orbit 23,000km above Earth today.

When completed, a 30-strong network of satellites is expected to improve the accuracy of the geo-location services offered by satnavs and smartphones to within 1m, when used in conjunction with GPS.

Enhancements are expected to further improve accuracy in the future, while the strategic reliance on the US for positioning data has long concerned European officials.

“The Galileo programme sets up an enhanced global satellite navigation system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service,” European officials said in a statement. “It will offer three services, the Open Service (free of charge), the Public Regulated Service (PRS), and the Search-and-Rescue Service, as of 2014.

“Further services to follow later will include a Commercial Service and a Safety-of-Life Service for higher data throughput rate and higher accuracy authenticated data.”

European vice president for industry and entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani justified the project’s estimated €11.5bn cost by claiming it would deliver €90bn in industry benefits over the next 20 years.

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