BRUSSELS – Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system, which was in jeopardy of not getting off the ground three years ago, is about to take a big step to the launch pad.
The process of picking technology companies to build the satellites and ground stations for the system will begin in the next two months, the European Commission said this week.
Politicians gave their final assent to Galileo on Monday after years of setbacks and delays threatened to derail the ambitious project, which is Europe’s answer to U.S.-run GPS (Global Positioning System).
Billions of euros of contracts are to be awarded to Europe’s aerospace and computer industries in time to allow them to complete construction of the 30-strong constellation of satellites and their network of installations on the ground by the 2013 deadline.
Front runners include the companies that abandoned the Galileo project in 2005. They include the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), France’s Thales and Alcatel-Lucent , Britain’s Inmarsat, Italy’s Finmeccanica, Spain’s AENA and Hispasat and Deutsche Telekom of Germany.
The companies pulled out because they feared losing money. The Commission stepped in and proposed allocating unused European Union funds, mostly budgeted for farm subsidies, to plug the shortfall in Galileo’s estimated