European transport ministers have given the European Space Agency (ESA) and the continent's space industry go-ahead to start development of the Galileo satellite navigation system.

As expected, at their meeting on 5 April, the Transport Council approved an initial €100 million ($88 million) of funding and committed to taking the first steps to establishing a management organisation to control the project (Flight International, 3-9 April).

Galileo will have to wait until December, however, for a further €1 billion in funding from the European Commission (EC) and ESA for development of the 30 satellite system which is set to rival the US global positioning system. The EC aims to commission Galileo by 2008.

European transport minister approval follows last month's agreement with Europe's space industry to commit an initial €200 million up to 2005. This had eased many European states' concerns that they will be left to foot the bulk of the Galileo bill. European states believe that the operational phase will be privately funded.

ESA and the EC have agreed to put in place a temporary management structure. This body will have to obtain a firm financial commitment from the private sector for involvement in the deployment phase before the end of 2003.

The development phase will include, in co-operation with ESA, preparing detailed project objectives and mission requirements, such as system performance, optimised interoperability, compatibility and redundancy with other satellite navigation systems. Once services have been defined, a tendering process will be launched "as soon as possible", with a tender evaluation to be considered in November.

This process will determine the longer term development of the private sector involvement, identify the commercial and public services to be offered by Galileo and specify possible revenue sources.

Source: Flight International