Easy come, easy go: Euro astroboffins blast brace of Galileo sats INTO SPAAACE

Look up to the skies and see

The European Space Agency has successfully launched two new satellites into orbit as part of the Galileo project to offer EU citizens an alternative GPS system from late 2016.

Late on Friday night, the brace of birds were blasted into space from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on top of a Soyuz rocket.

The ESA's sats will join six satellites previously launched by the agency, as it further beefs up the positioning system's network as an alternative to the one currently offered by the US.

Once initial checks are completed, the satellites will be handed over to the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Additionally, the Galileo in-orbit testing facility in Redu, Belgium, will try-out the birds before they are green-lit for operational service, the ESA said.

Another four sats are being tested by astroboffins before their scheduled launch later this year.

"The tests in orbit of satellites 5 and 6 have demonstrated the quality and performance of the satellites, and the production of the following ones is well on track. Good news for Galileo," said ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain.

Eventually, the EU's global satnav system is expected to consist of 30 birds and their ground infrastructure. Initial services will include an encrypted public regulated system and a search and rescue function, with the ESA promising showtime in 2016. Four years later, the agency plans to open up the system as a commercial service. ®

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