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EC, ESA open bidding to build Galileo system

Posted: 04 Jul 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Galileo system? satellite navigation? bidding?

The European Commission and European Space Agency (ESA) have launched the procurement process for the construction phase of Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system.

The EC has set aside more than $1.9 billion to build 26 satellites, buy launch rockets and set up the ground control centers. The total budget of $5.39 billion between 2007 and 2013 has been divided into six segments with contracts for satellites, launchers, computer programs, ground stations, control stations and the system's operation.

Even though the timescales are tight, the EC and its partner the ESA have cautioned that "the procurement of the Galileo infrastructure is particularly complex." All contracts should be in place by mid-2009, said a spokesman for the Commission.

The potential bidders include companies such as EADS subsidiary Astrium, German satellite builder OHB Technology, Thales Alenia Space, and Logica.

Companies outside the EU will not be barred from bidding and Boeing has already shown interest.

Some work on Galileo is already under wayfour operational satellites and some ground control systems are in the process of being built. The contracts now open to competition will complete the network.

Bidders are being offered "six work packages", with strict rules governing how much work can go to each company and how much of that work must then be sub-contracted to partners.

The system, which will compete against but and also collaborate with the U.S. GPS, should be fully operational by 2013, several years behind the original target. The first four constellation spacecraft are expected to be launched in 2010.

Two test satellites, Giove-A and Giove-B, are already paving way for the full system. The latter was launched earlier this year.

Rough journey
Galileo's development has been controversial because of prolonged political squabbling, technical problems and cost overruns.

Last year, the Commission was forced to revise the whole manufacturing and operational structure of the ambitious project after the collapse of the private consortium asked to build and operate the system.

Construction of Galileo will now be for entirely from European taxespaid, with some of the companies from the failed consortium certain to be among the eventual contractors.

Europe has already spent about $2.5 billion the project and ministers and the European Parliament have warned that the additional $5.39 billion recently approved for satellite navigation investments will be the limit on expenditure.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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