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October 6th, 2007
More Delays for Galileo GNSS

The ministers now envisage that private equity will only be introduced into the system once it is up and running.

They proposed to pay for the project with unspent money from the EU’s joint budget which had been intended for farm subsidies. They saw this as a better option than seeking the extra cash from member states.

However, German transport minister Wolfgang Tiefensee maintained Berlin’s opposition to the plans. He says funding should come from states with companies involved in the project – not from all the states.

The ministers will have another chance to narrow their differences at the end of November. If things are not resolved then, the situation will be decided by heads of states in mid December.

The pessimistic political/economic outlook follows the news of a further three month delay in the launch of the second Galileo engineering test satellite — Giove-B. The delay is due to problems with the Russian rocket that is meant to launch it into orbit.

ESA and the Galileo Joint Undertaking launched the first Galileo in-orbit validation element test satellite, Giove-A, on 28 December 2005.

It was built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, and was designed to ensure that Galileo met the frequency-filing allocation and reservation requirements for the International Telecommunication Union. This process was completed by June 2006.

Since then, however, the schedule has started to slip. Giove-B, built by European Satellite Navigation Industries, has a more advanced payload than Giove-A. It was scheduled to be launched in late 2006, but has been delayed until March 2008.

A follow on mission, Giove-A2, is currently under construction at SSTL. It will be ready for launch in the second half of 2008. Four in-orbit validation satellites will be launched in 2009, to follow these testbeds. They will be much closer to the final Galileo design.

At this rate, the first production satellites will not reach orbit until 2010, and it will take two or three years to populate all the 30 required orbit slots.

Completion of the project is expected to require an additional E2.4 billion (US$3.4 billion) on top of money already spent. At the meeting last month, ministers proposed to use E1.7 billion in 2007 and E500 million in 2008. This money had been allocated for farm subsidies, but is not needed because of high commodity prices.

The rest of the money would come from unspent funds set aside for running the EU’s institutions.

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