Europe’s own global navigation system is a step closer with the launch of two more Galileo satellites on a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana.
The satellites – numbers five and six – follow four previous ones which were sent into space in 2011 and 2012.
That represented a phase to put the spacecraft into orbit. The latest launch brings the Galileo project towards full operational deployment.
This phase is fully funded by the European Commission, with the European Space Agency building and developing the system.
Europe’s navigation service is designed to be compatible with the American and Russian systems GPS and Glonass.
Unlike those two forerunners, which were originally developed for military purposes, Galileo will be entirely under civilian control.
Its uses could be numerous: to aid transport, be it from the air, sea or land in the form of road and rail traffic.
It could also help search and rescue operations in natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes – as well as aiding energy, agriculture and fishing.
As the system is developed the plan is to launch six to eight satellites per year.
It is hoped that the project, estimated to have cost six billion euros to date, will bring significant savings and create thousands of jobs.