KOUROU, French Guiana (Reuters) - A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from French Guiana Friday bearing the first two satellites in Europe's Galileo global positioning system.
The launch from Europe's space base in South America -- the first for a Soyuz rocket outside of the former Soviet Union and the culmination of more than a decade of planning -- had been delayed from Thursday after a leaky valve was detected in the rocket's fuelling system.
Once fully operational later this decade, the Galileo system aims to give Europeans autonomy from the U.S. government-controlled Global Positioning System. Russia says it completed its own similar system earlier this month.
The launch follows years of delays and budget disputes over Galileo, as well as almost a decade of discussions since France and Russia agreed to co-operate on Soyuz launches in 2003.
(Reporting by Frank Leconte)
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