PARIS — The European Commission (EC) says it is happy with progress made in developing Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system and will commit to seeing the 30-spacecraft constellation through to completion, even though doing so will hike the cost more than 50%.
In a long-awaited midterm review, the EC notes that Galileo has passed a number of milestones in the past year that ensure it will reach its initial operational capability — 18 satellites and corresponding ground segment — by 2014-15. This is two to three years later than the objective set when Galileo was overhauled in 2007, but still considered viable given the system’s strategic value and the anticipated €240 billion ($324 billion) annual global market for navigation and timing services, the EC finds.
However, it notes that more must be pumped into service development to facilitate market acceptance before the start of initial service, which will consist of open, encrypted and search-and-rescue signals, all free of charge.
The EC also salutes the entry into service last year of Europe’s Egnos GPS augmentation system, which is due to be declared ready for air navigation use this month. “We are satisfied with the progress made so far and committed to bringing this project to fruition,” says Antonio Tajani, the EC’s vice president and industry and enterprise commissioner.
Contracts for construction, system design and operation of the first 14 Full Operating Capability spacecraft and launch of the first 10 units were issued in 2010, the report notes, and the final two awards, for satellite and mission control, are to be contracted this year. Assembly and testing of the four In-Orbit Validation spacecraft is nearing completion, with the first two due to lift off this summer.
Key parts of the ground control infrastructure, including control centers in Fucino, Italy, and Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, have been completed. And proposed rules for accessing the encrypted public regulated security signal — a sensitive issue for the civilian-controlled system — were cleared in October for submission to Parliament and the European Council.
The Commission estimates another €1.9 billion will be needed to expand Galileo to its full operating strength of 30 spacecraft, and a further €800 million per year will be required for Galileo/Egnos operation. Full operating capability should be obtained by 2019-20, the EC estimates.
However, the EC will have to fight hard to obtain an adequate funding line in its next 2014-20 budget cycle and secure special financial instruments, including extra payments from member states, which it thinks may be required to complement budget financing. The report notes that additional risks — notably with respect to the Public Regulated Service security signal, ground infrastructure, GPS compatibility and liability — could further affect costs and schedules.
And no satisfactory mechanism yet exists for ensuring sustained planning and funding for system operation and replenishment.
Overruns for development and extra launch expenses already have cost the program €1 billion, according to EC estimates, and it was feared they might tempt the member states to scale back the constellation. However, a series of forums late last year, including meetings of the European Union/European Space Agency Council and the EC Competitiveness Council in December, confirmed EU support for space and placed completion of the system at the top of its priorities.