The European Commission unveiled, on 7 January, the names of the industrial groups selected to develop components for Galileo, the European satellite navigation programme that will rival the American GPS. Three of the six contracts that will allow full deployment of the system have been awarded to: OHB Technology (Germany), allied with Britain's Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, for the construction of a first order of 14 satellites (contract value: 566 million); ThalesAleniaSpace (Italy) for system support services, ie industrial services needed to support the European Space Agency for validation of the Galileo system (85 million); and Arianespace (France) for the launch of five Soyuz launchers, each carrying two satellites (397 million).

The announcement is bad news for the German giant Astrium, which was competing with the smaller firm OHB for the satellite contract. Astrium, a subsidiary of EADS, will try to make up for this loss with the next order. Another work order, probably for eight satellites, is expected to be placed with one of the two firms at a later stage under a simpler tender procedure (framework contracts were signed with OHB and Astrium in December 2009, used as the basis for the final negotiation). The Commission has not yet given any details at this stage on the timing of a subsequent contract. According to a Commission official, budget considerations will determine the timeframe. Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani (who will still be responsible for Galileo in the new Commission, since he takes over the industry and enterprises portfolio), did not hide the fact that "the costs will be higher" than initially foreseen, "especially for the launchers".


Galileo's final constellation will be made up of 30 to 32 satellites. The Commission confirmed this figure at its press conference, on 7 January. The system will be able to provide its initial services with only 18 satellites...

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