Galileo 13 & 14 have successfully been delivered into space, via a good old Soyuz 3-stager. The Galileo program is ESA’s 24-satellite constellation aimed at delivering a global satellite positioning system to Europe. The program started as a response to the Selective Availability (SA) of the Global Positioning System (GPS), meaning that the Unites States, who control the GPS network, can reduce the accuracy and precision of their positioning system selectively. Although SA was abolished in 2000, the European Union wanted a neutral platform that would be available to anyone, with improved precision and reliability.
This week’s launch marks an important milestone, as half of the satellites needed for the system to be complete are placed in orbit. The service will be available starting from 2019/2020, according to ESA. Galileo’s communication is conducted through a different set of frequencies to the ones used by GPS, so using existing devices will most likely not be possible. US and EU are however working on bringing a unified platform to the market, meaning that in a few years positioning devices will be able to utilize both satellite positioning constellations.