Soyuz Flight VS09 launched Europe's fifth and sixth Galileo satellites into space
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Galileo, the EU's satellite navigation programme, sent two more satellites into space on August 22, 2014, reaching a total number of 6 satellites in orbit. The plan is to reach 30 before the end of the decade (27 active plus 3 spares). The launch happened at the European spaceport near Kourou, in French Guiana, and the rocket used to carry the two satellites is a Russian Soyuz, proving that even under the strong political clash resulting from the Ukrainian crises, it is possible to maintain cooperation at the highest level between the EU and Russia. Galileo promises much better accuracy than GPS in locating people or objects on the planet. So far, the American GPS is the dominant positioning system, with an average accuracy of a few metres. Galileo promises to offer accuracy up to a few centimetres. You may ask if this new system is really necessary. You’re not the only one. With a total cost in infrastructure of around 3 billion euros, many European citizens are asking that same question. The answer, it seems, is that this programme’s importance for the EU is more related to the independence regarding the American GPS, than with the extra accuracy permitted by Galileo. In fact, so far Galileo has found it hard to convince companies to prepare their products and apps to use the new positioning system. Maybe it’s too soon to conclude there’s a lack of interest from the market. The fact is that in Europe there is a tremendous lack of programmers. According to European commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, “Europe is experiencing a growing skills gap in the ICT sector, which is expected to see a shortage of 900,000 ICT practitioners in the European labour market by the end of 2020". So, will Galileo have a bright future? Or will it survival be based solely on the need of EU governments to feel a little more independent from their friend across the Atlantic? We’ll see.