EC awards €1bn Galileo sat-nav contracts

Contracts have been awarded to supply the long-running Galileo project, the European answer to GPS
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Three of the six contracts designed to provide Europe with a competitor to GPS have been awarded by the European Commission.

The contracts for Galileo project technologies were announced on Thursday.

Systems support will be provided by ThalesAleniaSpace of Italy. OHB System AG of Germany received a contract for 14 satellites, while the contract for launch services went to Arianespace of France.

"With this and the upcoming awards for the remaining procurement packages, we are concluding a critical phase of the Galileo programme," said Antonio Tajani, European transport commissioner, in the statement. "We can now focus on the actual rollout and demonstrate to European citizens that Europe's own satellite navigation system is firmly underway."

The contract awarded to ThalesAleniaSpace covers system support services to the European Space Agency and has a value of €85m (£76m).

The Arianespace contract covers the launch of five Soyuz rockets, each carrying two satellites. The value of the contract is €397m. The first launch is scheduled for October 2012.

OHB won the €566m contract to deliver the first 14 satellites, with a further 18 satellites to be ordered from either OHB or EADS-Astrium GmBH, depending on value-for-money, said the Commission statement. British satellite manufacturing company SSTL will work in partnership with OHB for €236m of the €566m satellite contract.

Science and innovation minister Lord Drayson congratulated SSTL in a statement on Thursday. "This is great news for Surrey-based satellite manufacturer SSTL and the British space industry," said Drayson. "The UK is fast becoming a world-wide destination for high-tech, high-skilled advanced manufacturing — and the UK space and satellite industry, with their strong order books for the next five years, is a sterling example of this."

The contracts will be signed in the next few weeks, the Commission added.

The Galileo satellite-network project, which aims to provide a European civilian rival to the US's military GPS system, was started in the mid-1990s, and is due to be completed by 2013. However, in July 2009 European auditors severely criticised the project because of cost overruns and failures to meet deadlines.

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