PARIS (AFP) Dec 28, 2005
French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday hailed the launch of the first test satellite of the Galileo navigation system as a key achievement for Europe's space industry.
"Space is an essential part of the great European project," Chirac said in a statement, voicing his "great satisfaction" at the successful deployment of the GIOVE-A satellite from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
"This new success for Europe's space industry comes on the heels of the fifth successful launch of an Ariane rocket this year, from the Kourou Space Centre in Guiana," Chirac said.
"The European Space Agency has marked its 50th birthday with an exceptionally rich year," he added, also citing the success of the Huygens mission to Saturn's moon Titan and congratulating the entire ESA leadership.
The Galileo network, destined to provide a pinpoint-accurate navigational device, will allow Europe to gain strategic independence, as satellites have become indispensable for regulating air, maritime and automobile traffic.
It will both compete with and complement the US Global Positioning System (GPS), which was originally developed for military targeting and positioning.
The European system was the first to be designed for strictly civilian use and will cost an estimated 3.8 billion euros (4.5 billion dollars).
The GIOVE-A satellite will test equipment, including an atomic clock, ahead of future launches of satellites making up the network.
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