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.
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.