French Guiana halts historic Russian rocket launch

CAYENNE, French Guiana (AP) ? The launch of the first two satellites of the European Union’s Galileo navigation system was postponed Thursday because of technical problems at the base in French Guiana, according to officials.

Officials hope to delay the launch of the Russian Soyuz rocket by only 24 hours, although a new date will be announced once the investigation is complete, said Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of Arianespace, the commercial arm of the European Space Agency.

Authorities postponed the launch after they discovered a leak inside a valve, he said.

The European Galileo system is being launched to challenge the American GPS system, which has become the consumer standard in satellite navigation over the past decade.

The EU has said the new system will provide more than double the coverage and more accurate locations than the U.S. Global Positioning System it currently uses.

The system is expected to cost at least $8.5 billion and is scheduled to start operating in 2014. It will feature 30 satellites, compared with GPS’s 24 satellites, according to the agency.

The launch was originally scheduled for last year, but adverse weather kept delaying construction of the Soyuz facility.