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EU Uses Ariane 5 for the First Time to Launch Four More Galileo Satellites

Nov 18, 2016 05:04 AM EST

Europe's Arian 5 ES rocket successfully launched a quadruplet of Galileo positioning, navigation, and timing satellites into the medium-Earth orbit on Thursday, November 17, Space News reports.

Operated by Arianspace, the Arian 5, took off from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This is the first time the Ariane 5 had been used for the Galileo program, as all previous launches were by Europeanized Russian Soyuz-Fregat rockets, which carry two Galileo satellites into orbit at a time.

The mission also marks a significant milestone for the Arian 5. "With this 75th successful launch in a row, Ariane-5 sets a new record within European developed launchers and proves once more its reliability," said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA's Director for Launchers, the European Space Agency (ESA) writes.

Boasting of an estimated LEO launch capacity of 21,000 kg or 46,000 lbs., the Arian 5 has previously been used to lift automated transfer vehicles (ATV) to the international space station.

"Now that we can rely on the powerful Ariane 5, we can anticipate the quicker completion of Galileo deployment, permitting the system to enter full operation," affirms Paul Verhoef, ESA's Director for the Galileo Programme and Navigation-related Activities.

Currently, the Galileo system has a total of 18 satellites in orbit. Two additional Ariane 5 launches are scheduled in 2017 and 2018. The full system of 24 satellites plus spares is expected to be in place by 2020.

Funded and owned by the European Union, Galileo is Europe's civil global satellite navigation system. Its purpose is to allow users all over the globe to access position in time and space accurately and reliably.

According to Fortune, the EU aims to mobilize the Galileo program to enter the global market for satellite navigation services, which it estimates will be worth 250 billion euros ($267 billion) by 2022, adding that around 6 to 7% of the $16-trillion EU economy depends on the availability of global navigation satellite signals. Russia and China also have their own global positioning systems (GPS) for defense and commercial purposes.

Watch the video of the Galileo 15-18 Launch

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