The Ariane 5 rocket lifting off from ESA’s European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
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Seventeen years and more than 10 billion euros ($11 billion) later, Europe's Galileo satnav system is set to go live Thursday, promising to outperform U.S. and Russian rivals while boosting regional self-reliance.Somewhat fuzzy at first, the signal will be boosted with help from satellites in the U.S. military-run GPS system, growing stronger over time as orbiters are added to the now 18-strong Galileo network circling 23,222 kilometers above Earth.According to its proud parents, the Commission and European Space Agency, Galileo should be fully operational by 2020, providing time and positioning data of unprecedented accuracy.Galileo itself is expected to add some 90 billion euros to the EU economy in its first 20 years.The system's groundbreaking accuracy is the result of the best atomic clocks ever flown for navigation – one per satellite – accurate to one second in three million years.
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