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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
EU monies 'should fund Galileo'
Galileo spacecraft (Galileo Industries)
Further spacecraft need to be ordered in the next few months
The European Commission has outlined its plan to get the Galileo satellite navigation system back on track.

The Commission believes the project could be salvaged with the help of unspent EU funds - without additional taxpayers' money from EU governments.

This would mean member states having to find about a billion more than they expected because of the collapse of private sector involvement.

The EC is determined to have Galileo operational by the end of 2012.

However, this target is dependent on financing arrangements being put in place this year.

So far, only four spacecraft in the eventual 30-satellite constellation have been ordered. Unless contracts are issued for more platforms in the coming months, the timetable will slip again and Europe's biggest single space project may then face calls to be scrapped altogether.

Funds shift

"I am still convinced that Europe needs Galileo," said European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot.

"Today I have come up with all the facts and figures to enable the European Parliament and ministers to take the necessary decisions on the programme and its funding by the end of the year."

Artist's impression of Galileo constellation, Esa
A European Commission and European Space Agency project
30 satellites to be launched in batches by end of 2011-12
Will work alongside US GPS and Russian Glonass systems
Promises real-time positioning down to less than a metre
Guaranteed under all but most extreme circumstances
Suitable for safety-critical roles where lives depend on service

The favoured position is to take the extra monies needed to build Galileo fully from the reserves in the EU budget. Funds would be moved across from unspent cash in the agriculture, administration and research budgets.

Under the previous financing plan, EU members were already on a trajectory to spend about 2.4bn (1.7bn) euros on Galileo. Under the new arrangements, they would have to fund the full cost, currently projected to be at least 3.4bn euros (2.4bn).

One alternative had been to give the European Space Agency (Esa) a bigger role, resulting in its members making up the shortfall with extra contributions.

The EC, however, would prefer that Esa stick to its current role as the "procurement agent, design authority and prime contractor".

Galileo's planned network will beam radio signals to receiving devices on the ground, helping users pinpoint their locations.

The system's technologies are designed to bring greater accuracy and reliability to navigation and timing signals delivered from space.

It is intended to work alongside, and complement, the US Global Positioning System (GPS).

Future approval

The present funding crisis was triggered by the failure to agree a Public Private Partnership (PPP), in which a consortium of aerospace and telecom companies would build much of Galileo's infrastructure and then run its services.

The aim now is for the infrastructure to be built using public funds and for the private sector to come in only as the operator.

Nonetheless, it is industry which will have to construct the satellites and ground stations and Wednesday's recommendations emphasise the need for open competition in the procurement process. It also urges that the EU appoint a single programme manager to oversee Galileo.

The Commission's proposals will need to be approved by member states and the European Parliament. EU transport ministers will get a chance to discuss the situation in Luxembourg on 2 October.

Bob Cockshott, from the UK's Location and Timing Knowledge Transfer Network, welcomed the news, commenting: "There is no question - Galileo must be seen through to completion. A civilian satellite navigation system in Europe presents huge opportunities to people, business and the individual economies of European countries."

UK presses private Galileo role
03 Jul 07 |  Science/Nature
Ministers agreed on Galileo funds
08 Jun 07 |  Science/Nature
Taxpayers 'should build Galileo'
16 May 07 |  Science/Nature
Europe launches Galileo satellite
28 Dec 05 |  Science/Nature
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29 Dec 05 |  Science/Nature

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