A Russian carrier rocket orbited two European navigation satellites on Friday, a spokesman for the European Space Agency (ESA) said.
The Soyuz-ST with a Fregat booster was launched earlier on Friday for the first time from the Kourou launch site in French Guiana.
“The separation of the satellites from the Fregat booster occurred at 6.19 p.m. Moscow time [14:19 GMT],” the official said.
The satellites on board will be deployed as part of the European Galileo navigation system. At present, two test satellites launched in 2005 and 2008 are working in orbit.
The new Galileo satellites will orbit at 23,200 kilometers (14,400 miles) at a 56-degree angle to the Equator.
When the Galileo system is complete, it will have up to 30 satellites, six more than in the US GPS system. Galileo is expected to enter limited service in 2014 and be fully operational by 2020 when 27 satellites will be in orbit.
The Galileo developers claim that the system will be more precise than its competitors – U.S. GPS, Russian Glonass, and China’s prospective Compass navigation systems – and create new economic opportunities for Europe with potential revenues of up to $125 bln over the next two decades.