A consortium headed by European satellite operator Eutelsat has dropped out of the contest to operate the Galileo navigation satellite system, citing the "strict requirements" set by the programme.

The move leaves two consortia competing for the concession to deploy and operate the constellation of 30 satellites. The Inavsat group is headed by Inmarsat and includes EADSSpace and Thales, while the Eurely consortium is led by Alcatel Space and includes Finmeccanica and Vinci Concessions.

Eutelsat announced in February that it had been preselected for the second phase of negotiations to run the Galileo concession along with consortium members LogicaCMG, Hispasat, Fiat and AENA. Eutelsat says it has "decided it is not in a position to meet the exact terms of the bids defined by the Galileo Joint Undertaking [GJU]", but insists it "believes in the strategic importance of the Galileo programme". It adds that individual members of the consortium "may decide on a unilateral basis to pursue alternative opportunities" in Galileo. The decision means that one of the world's largest satellite operators will be out of Europe's first major programme to be run on a public/private partnership basis.

The GJU, set up by the European Commission and the European Space Agency to manage the development phase of the Galileo programme, is due to report to the EC at the end of September on the two remaining bids. The EC will make its recommendation to the European Parliament and Council of Ministers in October.


Source: Flight International