The European Space Agency will today launch the first two Galileo Validation Satellites in to orbit in preparation for the launch of the new tracking system called GNSS. When fully operational there will be 30 satellites in orbit (inc 3 spares) which will be at an altitude of just over 22KM.
The long-term project is expected to cost €7 billion to complete and when operational it will provide an alternative to GPS and GLONASS which the US and Russia (in 2012) offer. The expected live data for Galileo is sometime in 2019 if all goes to plan.
Two satellites are scheduled to be launched every quarter starting with the two verification satellites. The next two will launch in the first quarter of 2012 and continue on till all 30 are in orbit.
Although the full system wont be in place till 2019, the system will have enough satellites in orbit to provide a service free of charge to users as early as 2014. 5 years after that when all 27 live satellites are orbiting, a more accurate paid service will be made available.
Expected revenues for the new satellite system are €90bn per year when the full service launches which means the extra costs associated with the delayed launches could be eaten up sooner rather than later.