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Soyuz Rocket Carrying European Satellites Launches From French Guiana

The launch of a "Soyuz-2.16" rocket from the Plesetsk space base in northern Russia (file photo).
A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying the first two satellites from the European Union's Galileo navigation system has launched from French Guiana.

It was the first launch of a Soyuz rocket from outside Russia's bases.

The two Galileo satellites are expected to be placed into orbit during mission lasting almost four hours.

The launch was postponed on October 20 after a valve leak was discovered in the fuelling system.

Soyuz rockets have traditionally been launched from Plesetsk, in northern Russia, and Baikonur, in Kazakhstan.

Once it is completed by 2020, Galileo should give Europeans autonomy from the U.S.-government-controlled Global Positioning System (GPS).

The launch on October 21 follows years of delays and budget disputes over Galileo, as well as almost a decade of discussions ever since France and Russia agreed to cooperate on Soyuz launches in 2003.

compiled from agency reports