Europeans scramble after satellites hit wrong orbits

The European Space Agency says two satellites for its new global navigation system have been placed into the wrong orbit. (P Baudon, European Space Agency, AP)
The European Space Agency says two satellites for its new global navigation system have been placed into the wrong orbit. (P Baudon, European Space Agency, AP)

Paris - European space officials say they're investigating whether the inaccurate deployment of two satellites will complicate their efforts to develop a new Galileo satellite navigation system that would rival America's GPS network.

The European Space Agency and launch company Arianespace say the satellites ended up in off-target orbits after being launched on Friday from Kourou, French Guiana, aboard a Soyuz rocket.

Saturday's agency statement did not explain the difference between the satellites' intended orbits and its current ones, or whether their orbital paths could be corrected. Arianespace declined further comment.

The European Union hopes to have its 30-satellite Galileo navigation network operating fully by 2020. The Prague-based programme oversaw the launch of its first two satellites in 2011, two more in 2012, and two more on Friday.

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