The European satellite system Galileo is set to launch its first two satellites in less than a month. Modeled after North America's Global Positioning System or GPS, Europe is excited to finally have its own system in place.
The new satellites are being transported to a launch complex in French Guiana where they will be sent up on a Russian Soyuz rocket. The launch facility is located near the Kourou base that launched Europe's Ariane 5, a rocket used to deliver payloads into geostationary transfer orbit. After the initial launch in October, two more satellites will be launched in 2012, at which time Astrium, a major space company in the UK, will begin the in-orbit verification.
The Galileo project was slated for completion quite some time ago, but commercial and political concerns delayed the launch. Objections arose from the United States over the belief that a satellite system mirroring their own GPS network was destined to be a threat. Eventually, the European Union was able to convince the United States that Galileo was not designed as a threat. In the end, the delay increased the cost of the project significantly, growing from 1.8 billion euros to 5 billion euros.
Once Galileo is fully functional, the European Commission is expecting to see strong economic returns. The hope is that new businesses will open up throughout Europe. These companies will use the data received from the Galileo network, such as precise timing and location information, to build and grow. However, only time will tell whether this grand sum of money and positive thinking will indeed boost the economy of the European countries involved.