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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
EU divided over Galileo funding
Galileo spacecraft (Galileo Industries)
The project aims to have 30 satellites in orbit by 2013
The EU remains split on how to fund Europe's satellite navigation system but have vowed to push ahead anyway.

At a meeting in Luxembourg, ministers from Britain, the Netherlands and Germany led opposition to a proposed rescue bid for the Galileo project.

They opposed a European Commission (EC) proposal to use 2.4bn euros from EU funds to get the system back on track.

The EC is determined to have Galileo operational by 2013, but so far only one test satellite is in orbit.

In addition, only four of the eventual 30-satellite constellation has been ordered.

Unless contracts are issued for more spacecraft soon, the timetable for Europe's biggest single space project may slip again and could face calls to be scrapped altogether.

Decision time

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.

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

In September, the EC said that unused agricultural and administrative funds from 2007 and 2008 could be used to plug most of the 2.4bn-euro hole in the project.

However, this would mean that the EU's agreed budget for 2007-2013 would have to be readjusted.

"The German government does not agree with the Commission's proposal in this form," Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said at the Luxembourg meeting of transport and telecommunication ministers.

Germany has previously suggested that the shortfall could be made up by European Space Agency (Esa) members, a suggestion that the EC is against.

EU finance ministers will now discuss the proposal and a final decision on Galileo's future is expected at a meeting of EU leaders in December.

Portugal's transport minister Mario Lino is confident that the project will get the final go ahead.

"We are on the right track," he said.

EU monies 'should fund Galileo'
19 Sep 07 |  Science/Nature
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
Navigating future for road charges
29 Dec 05 |  Science/Nature

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