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Galileo’s Plan B (and C)

Inside GNSS, May/June 2007

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A sea change appears to be taking place in Europe’s Galileo program as its political masters prepare to transform the struggling public-private partnership (PPP) into a more traditional institutional program wholly sponsored by the public sector.

That would move an additional €2.4 to €3 billion onto the public tax burden, but it might also represent the quickest route to completion of the GNSS project backed by the European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The move follows the collapse of negotiations between the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA) and an eight-member consortium of private companies that sought a 20-concession to complete and operate Galileo. A European source close to the negotiations confirmed the new directions for the program to Inside GNSS.

At a March 22 session, the EU Transport Council gave the consortium until May 10 to incorporate and get negotiations back on track, at the same time asking its executive arm, the European Commission (EC) — assisted by the GSA and ESA — to come up with alternative options for handling the project.

On May 11, the GSA Administrative Board concluded, “We did not see relevant progress at the level that the Council expected,” according to GSA Executive Director Pedro Pedreira. That assessment and a discussion of alternatives have gone back to the transport ministers.

The officials are expected to re-visit the Galileo situation at a Transport Council meeting in early June. Jacques Barrot, EC vice-president and transport commissioner, is expected to announce the options under consideration by the EC on May 16.

The Alternatives. Reuters UK, citing a draft of an EC report that the news service said it had obtained, identified the preferred option as a public takeover the project now and issuance of a new tender for a private operator once the Galileo space and ground infrastructure is built. Projected completion of the system under that scenario would be the end of 2012.

In that case, ESA would probably act as the prime contractor for the project, extending its role beyond the in-orbit validation (IOV) phase. IOV includes construction of a ground monitoring and control segment and launch of the first four operational Galileo satellites beginning in 2009, as well as three experimental spacecraft, the first of which went into orbit in December 2005. ESA currently is overseeing a billion-euro IOV contract with the European Satellite Navigation Industries (formerly Galileo Industries).

A sizable question mark beside this option is whether ESA, with its background in scientific and research projects, can execute a time-sensitive commercial project with greater consequences for failing to deliver products and services to market as needed.

Another option, according to Reuters, would have the public sector launch 18 satellites and then turn the project over to industry to launch the remaining 12 — delaying completion until a year later. The final option would continue on the present PPP, prospectively delaying a fully operational system until mid-2014 at the earliest.

Since the March 22 ultimatum, the consortium members agreed to incorporate a Galileo Operating Company (GOC) to sign a so-called “head of terms” agreement with the GSA outlining the concession contract. However, consortium members apparently continued to wrangle among themselves, with some aerospace manufacturers speculating that they could do better under a new conventional program contract.

Then, in early May, the consortium apparently sent the commission a letter requesting additional time and incentives to resolve the stand-off.

GIOVE-A Nav Message

Despite the political situation, technical progress on Galileo continues. Early in May, ESA announced that the system’s first experimental satellite, GIOVE-A, had successfully transmitted its first navigation message.

The nav message contains the information needed by user receivers to calculate their position. Prior to reaching this milestone, the satellite had been broadcasting only the data needed for measuring the receiver-to-satellite distance.

The message was created by the navigation signal generator unit on board GIOVE-A, using content prepared by the GIOVE Mission Segment. The nav message was uplinked from the Guildford ground station in England operated by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. and then transmitted from the spacecraft to the users.

The objective of the test was to demonstrate an end-to-end link between the mission segment and user receivers. The navigation message is being generated for demonstration purposes only — no service guarantee is provided.

Copyright 2007 Gibbons Media and Research LLC

Copyright © 2007 Gibbons Media & Research LLC, all rights reserved.

Jammer Dectector
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