The countdown has started for the launch of Galileo's third and fourth satellites —scheduled for to at 20:15 pm from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This second pair of EADS Astrium satellites will be put into orbit on-board a Soyuz rocket operated by Arianespace.
The resulting initial constellation of four satellites will allow the validation and fine-tuning of the system before a new series of 22 satellites will be launched from 2013.
Galileo will allow users of dependant application to identify their exact position in time and space, just like the American GPS, but with even greater precision and reliability. Under European civilian control, Galileo will be compatible, and — for some of its services —interoperable with GPS, but entirely independent from it. In 2012, testing of Galileo satellites, in combination with GPS satellites, showed significant improvement of performance.
The launch will be closely monitored by the European Commission, as they bear overall responsibility for the Galileo Programme, which is on track to provide initial services in 2014.