Europeans sure know how to celebrate a Saturday night! While I spent the good part of Happy Hour knocking back shots, our cousins from across the ocean shot a satellite up into space. The Giove-B satellite, a demonstrator that will test key technologies needed in satellite navigation systems, ascended to the heavens at 22:16 GMT.
The Giove-B is a half-ton, 2.4x1x1 meter box which contains a passive hydrogen maser clock, the most stable clock ever to be shot into permanent orbit. The clock is designed to keep time with an accuracy of better than one nanosecond in 24 hours. If everything goes well and the clock stays ticking, the Giove-B's launch will be a template for about 30 operational platforms necessary to build Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system - one of the continent's key high-tech ventures.
Galileo, meant to be complimentary to GPS, will improve the availability and accuracy of timing signals delivered from space. Users will be able to pinpoint positions with an error of less than a metre, making those movie scenes where a sat-nav system zooms down on someone so close you can see their pores much less of a fantasy scenario.
A video of the launch is available on the BBC website. [BBC]