Galileo sat-nav almost at launching pad

Some time late next year it looks like a Soyuz rocket will launch the first stage of Europe's GPS alternative, after it became clear the project is going ahead as planned.

The initial orbital phase of the Galileo project will see four 'In-Orbit Validation' satellites sent into space to beam down test navigation signals that will form the bedrock of the complete system.

Fat contracts on offer

If all goes well, 30 larger satellites will be launched soon after to flesh out a sat-nav network that will improve on the accuracy of GPS (currently around 7m), bringing the margin of error down to just a metre or so.

Naturally, nothing is simple when it comes to European bureaucracy, so the process for deciding which companies get to build the second-phase of satellites is sure to be interesting viewing sometime later this year.