Europe Launches Satellite GPS Rival

The EU has launched the first of several dozen satellites aimed at providing navigational services to Europe, and an answer to the U.S.-controlled GPS system. The first satellite, "Giove A," launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday.

Eventually, the Galileo system will be comprised of about 30 satellites, costing about 3.4 billion euros. Several non-EU nations have joined the project, including China, India, Israel, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine, and discussions are underway with others.

A second satellite, "Giove B," is set for launch in Spring 2006, with another two satellites being placed into orbit two years later.

The new navigation system will be more accurate than GPS, with exact positioning to within a one meter or three foot radius versus five meters or 15 feet with GPS. Whereas the U.S. military controls the GPS system, the Galileo system is under civilian control, the European Space Agency said.

The project is expected to create some 150,000 jobs in Europe, and 1 billion euros have been set aside in the 2007-2013 EU budget as an initial investment. A large portion of the funding will come from the private sector.

Initially criticizing the effort, the United States has now signed an agreement to make the service compatible with GPS. At first, the Justice Department saw the project as a potential security threat if it could interfere with GPS systems.

The first Galileo receivers are expected on the market by 2008.

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