European Commission managers say they’re happy with the progress made with the Galileo satellite navigation system and will commit to ensuring that the constellation is completed, even though the cost will rise more than 50%.
In a long-awaited mid-term review last week, the EC noted that Galileo has passed a number of major milestones in the past year that ensures it will reach its initial operational capability—18 satellites and corresponding ground segment—by 2014-15. This is 2-3 years later than the objective set when Galileo was overhauled in 2007, but still considered viable considering the system’s strategic value and the anticipated €240-billion ($322-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 operations, which will consist of open, encrypted and search-and-rescue signals, all free of charge.
The EC also saluted the entry into service last year of Europe’s GPS augmentation system, known as Egnos, which is due to be declared ready for air navigation use this month (AW&ST Jan. 3, p. 40). “We are satisfied with the progress made so far and committed to bringing this project to fruition,” says Antonio Tajani, the EC’s industry and enterprise commissioner.
Contracts for construction, system design and operation of the first 14 full operating capability (FOC) 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 assigned this year. Assembly and testing of the four in-orbit validation (IOV) spacecraft are nearly complete, with the first two due to lift off this summer. Key parts of the ground infrastructure—including control centers in Fucino, Italy, and Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany—are now in place. And proposed rules for accessing the encrypted public regulated security signal—a sensitive issue for the civilian-controlled system—were cleared in October for submittal to the European Parliament and Council.
The EC estimates that 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 reckons.
However, the commission will have to fight hard to obtain an adequate funding line in its next 2014-20 budget cycle and secure special financing means, including extra payments from member states if required to complement budget funding. The report notes that additional risks—notably with respect to the PRS 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 costs have already 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-ESA 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 (AW&ST Nov. 1/8, 2010, p. 34).
The report says two-thirds of Galileo’s current €3.4-billion funding envelope has been spent to date, including €1.25 billion for the first four FOC work packages. There is enough money to cover the remaining two work packages but not the contingency reserve requirement, which is still being evaluated.
Other issues besides financing also must be resolved. One is compatibility and interoperability with other global navigation networks, in particular the question of signal overlay with China’s Compass (Beidou) system. “A solution [to this problem] will not be found without political support from [member states] and from the European Parliament,” the report says.
Program management is another thorny topic. The EC says ESA’s role as prime contractor still needs improvement, although it discourages any change in governance until Galileo is fully deployed. The EC also recommends some sort of integrated management team incorporating the EC, the EU and the air traffic control consortium ESSP for Egnos, whose geographical coverage is still deemed unsatisfactory, with more input from the aviation community. Proposals for permanent operating bodies for Egnos will be submitted by 2012 and for Galileo at a later date, the report says.
The favorable mid-term review could affect demands by some EU members, led by France, to modify or replace the EU-ESA Council set up in 2004 to determine European space policy. These nations argue that a change is warranted because of shortcomings in Galileo and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security program, and provisions in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty giving the EU new space powers. They recently secured a top-down re-evaluation of the council make-up, which must be completed by May (AW&ST Dec. 6, 2010, p. 16).
However, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain says that until funding for the next EU budget cycle is approved—probably not before late 2012—the issue of whether to change the council appears premature. “For now, the question is whether there will be enough money for Galileo and GMES and, if there is, whether there will be money left for anything else.”
By Michael A. Taverna