Europe launches first two Galileo navigation satellites

October 21, 2011

Galileo satellites (credit: ESA)

The European Space Agency launched today its first two Galileo global navigation system satellites, BBC News reports.

Unlike the Global Positioning System, developed by the U.S. military, Galileo is designed for civilian purposes and aims to end Europe’s reliance on GPS. The system is expected to start operating in 2015.

It also aims for better positional accuracy. While a position fixed by the publicly available GPS signal might have an error of about 10 meters, Galileo’s designers promise one-meter accuracy.

Galileo will also have a commercial, fee-based service for high-precision, guaranteed signals for use in mining, surveying, mapping and other uses. It’s not known how widely Galileo’s signals will be made available to the general public or whether future smartphones will support it.

In related news, Apple has updated its iPhone 4S tech specs page: the iPhone 4S also supports GLONASS, the Russian version of GPS.