This week briefings

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Galileo satellites poised to clear hurdle

NAVIGATION The European Union's Galileo satellite navigation system looks likely to clear a funding hurdle that threatened to scupper the programme. A yes vote by the European Parliament next week on a plan to divert €2.4 billion ($3.54 billion) from agricultural support and other programmes would set in motion a new competitive bidding process agreed by member state transport ministers to divide procurement into six segments, overseen by the European Space Agency, with no single company allowed to be a prime contractor on more than two segments or have more than 40% of the subcontracting work for the available segments. One immediate result of this agreement has been the dismantling of the European Satellite Navigation Industries consortium, a joint venture created in 2000 by Thales Alenia Space, Finmeccanica, EADS Astrium and Spain's Grupo Navegacion Por Satelite Sistemas y Servicios to be the infrastructure industrial prime contractor.

Satellite System's progress reviewed

SPACEFLIGHT Last week more than 70 national governments and 50 international organisations were taking part in the global Earth observation summit in Cape Town, South Africa, to review progress and agree on future developments for Global Earth Observation Satellite System (GEOSS). GEOSS is envisaged as a large national and international co-operative effort to bring together existing and new satellite capabilities to help with disaster reduction, integrated water resource management, ocean and marine resource monitoring and management, weather and air quality monitoring, biodiversity conservation, sustainable land use and management and the public understanding of environmental factors affecting human health.

EL AL looks to Boeing for fleet revamp

LONG HAUL El Al Israel Airlines plans a fleet revamp that should firm up in 2010 with the carrier's decision to opt for new Boeing 777s or 787s for its long-haul operations, with an Airbus order all but ruled out. According to Offer Gat, chief executive for North and Central America, both Boeing aircraft are under consideration, but the Airbus A350 "is not really a potential candidate. We believe we don't need this aircraft." The airline currently flies 39 aircraft in its all-Boeing fleet: 777s, 767s, 757s, 747s and 737s.

Cessna buys composite aircraft maker columbia

BANKRUPTCY Years of financial uncertainty ended at Columbia Aircraft with Cessna's purchase of the bankrupt Oregon company at auction. Ultimately only Cessna and Melville, New York-based Park Electrochemical made offers, and the two company heads shook hands after three rounds of bidding. Cessna's last offer for $26.4 million includes $15.9 million in cash and the assumption of various liabilities, including customer deposits, warranties and payrolls. Cessna chief executive Jack Pelton says: "The Columbia models are a good fit with our existing product line." The all-composite Columbia 350 and 400 are now the Cessna 350 and 400. The 350's Continental TSIO-550-C engine and the 400's dual turbochargers at last give Cessna a high-performance piston to compete with Cirrus Design."

Spacehab throws its hat into the COTS ring

SPACEFLIGHT US commercial space services company Spacehab has announced that it has submitted a proposal for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration programme's phase one $175 million space act agreement. A winner will be selected in the first quarter of 2008. The proposal is based on Spacehab's Advanced Research and Conventional Technology Utilization Spacecraft design. Spacehab's partners in the proposal include Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, Cimarron and Odyssey Space Research. Last week Chicago based-PlanetSpace announced its submission. Lockheed Martin is also one of its partners. Other contenders for the $175 million are Spacedev and Transformational Space.

SkyWest orders 22 Bombardier regional jets

ORDER US regional carrier SkyWest has placed a firm order for 18 Bombardier CRJ700 NextGen and four CRJ900 NextGen regional jets. The transaction also includes 22 options that SkyWest can apply to either aircraft. This is the first order for CRJ NextGen aircraft by SkyWest, which through its SkyWest Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines subsidiaries already operates the world's largest CRJ fleet with 363 aircraft. The fleet currently includes 244 CRJ200, 102 CRJ700 and 17 CRJ900 regional jets.