EC stands by 2014 Galileo launch

The EC is confident its Galileo satellite network will be ready to offer basic services on-schedule in 2014, but remains tight lipped on the GPS element of the constellation.
 
Three basic services will be available in 2014, comprising an open public service, a regulated service offering two encrypted signals, and a self-explanatory search and rescue element. The Commission said it is on-track to deliver the services after awarding the last two management contracts for the initial 18-bird set-up.
 
French firm Thales Alenia Space won a €281 million contract covering the navigation information formatting for satellite broadcasts, with UK firm Astrium winning a €73.5 million deal to maintain and correctly position the birds.
 
The contracts are the last of six awarded by the EC since January 2010 covering the construction, launch and operation of Galileo satellites. Antonio Tajani, the EC’s enterprise and industrial policy commissioner, said issuing the final two contracts marks a “new chapter” for the project.
 
“[W]e are now well and truly on the road to putting in place the infrastructure leading to the provision of vital services to citizens in 2014,” Tajani notes.
 
However, his claim the contract award process was rigorous “because I personally insist on reducing costs wherever possible,” flies in the face of reports late in 2010 that the project is running €1.7 billion over budget. The shortfall means Galileo is unlikely to provide GPS-rivaling navigation services until 2017 at the earliest – some three years later than originally scheduled.
 
The EC claims the satellite set-up will boost the region’s economy €60 billion over the next 20 years, however it has previously been estimated the constellation will cost €1 billion per year to run over the same timeframe.
 
In January, OHB-System – one of two firms constructing the satellites – sacked its chief executive, after secret cables leaked by Wikileaks revealed he had told US diplomats the project was a waste of money.

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