The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that its Galileo satellite service has begun operations.
The project is Europe's rival to the GPS system and is designed to ensure the region has access to its own, more accurate satellite services and will be compromised of 24 satellites once complete.
There are now 18 satellite in orbit, enough for the EC to switch it on for real-world uses. There are three initial services that Galileo will be used for.
The first is called Open Service that will work in conjunction with GPS to provide even more specific location information for smartphones and in-car navigation systems.
The second is called the Public Regulated Service, which is listed as an encrypted, service for government-authorised users such as civil protection, fire brigades and the police.
Finally the service can now be used on location beacons used as part of the search and rescue service Cospas-Sarsat, helping reduce location accuracy from 10km to 5km, potentially improving rescue times as a result.
ESA director general Jan Woerner said the switch on was a major moment of success for the organisation and the region as a whole.
"For ESA, this is a very important moment in the programme. We know that the performance of the system is excellent," he said.
"The announcement of Initial Services is the recognition that the effort, time and money invested by ESA and the Commission has succeeded, that the work of our engineers and other staff has paid off, that European industry can be proud of having delivered this fantastic system."
Paul Verhoef, ESA's director of the Galileo Programme noted though that was still a way to go before the entire system would be complete.
"Much work remains to be done. The entire constellation needs to be deployed, the ground infrastructure needs to be completed and the overall system needs to be tested and verified," he said.
"In addition, together with the Commission we have started work on the second generation, and this is likely to be a long but rewarding adventure."
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