Soyuz places Galileo satellites in orbit - mission control
A Russian rocket on Friday placed in orbit the first two satellites in Europe's Galileo geopositioning system after its maiden launch from Europe's space base, mission controllers said.
Flight managers applauded loudly as the two satellites were deployed in space, nearly four hours after the veteran Soyuz rocket lifted off from Kourou.
"This is the story of Europe which succeeds and knows how to cooperate," Jean-Yves Le Gall, chief executive of Arianespace, which markets launches at Kourou, told reporters.
"What a road we have travelled."
The launch marked an unprecedented step in space cooperation, being the first by a Soyuz beyond Russia's historic bases at Plesetsk and Baikonur.
Soyuz traces its lineage to 1957 with Sputnik, the first satellite, and to the first manned flight, by Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.
Friday's launch was the 1,777th in the Soyuz saga. It has a success rate of 94.4 percent.
Galileo, budgeted at 5.4 billion euros (7.2 billion dollars), is intended to give Europe independence in satellite navigation, a vital component of the 21st-century economy, from the US Global Positioning System (GPS).
© 2011 AFP