Soyuz rocket blasts off from French Guiana

A Russian Soyuz rocket launches from French Guiana carrying the first two satellites for Europe's Galileo global positioning system.

October 21, 2011 14:40
Russian Soyuz rocket.

Russian Soyuz rocket 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from French Guiana bearing the first two satellites in Europe's Galileo global positioning system.

The launch from Europe's space base in South America -- the first for a Soyuz rocket outside of the former Soviet Union and the culmination of more than a decade of planning -- had been delayed after a leaky valve was detected in the rocket's fueling system.

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Once fully operational later this decade, the Galileo system aims to give Europeans autonomy from the US government-controlled Global Positioning System. Russia says it completed its own similar system earlier this month.

The launch follows years of delays and budget disputes over Galileo, as well as almost a decade of discussions since France and Russia agreed to co-operate on Soyuz launches in 2003.

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