Europe's first Galileo satellite to launch

The satellite is planned for launch on 28 December, eight days later than planned

Europe's first Galileo satellite, designed largely to complement the existing GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) system operated by the US, is scheduled for launch on 28 December, eight days later than previously planned, the European Space Agency (ESA) announces.

GIOVE-A, the first satellite in the Galileo program, was to be launched 20 December from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, but was delayed due to technical problems that emerged during preflight testing.

The satellite system is designed to provide navigational services to drivers, pilots and sailors as well as sectors that have not used satellite navigation before, such as air traffic control, emergency services, railways, and power station networks. The system can also be used by mobile phone users to find directions to the nearest cinema or restaurant.

Preparations for the launch on 28 December are in full swing. The GIOVE-A satellite is now "mated" with the Fregat launcher, and the next stage will be to remove all non-flight items such as protective covers and enclose the upper composite in the nose cone that will protect the satellite as it ascends through the atmosphere, ESA says.

ESA and its other partner in the Galileo program, the European Union Trans-European Networks, expect to have 30 satellites in orbit by 2010.

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