Bernard Fitzsimons/EDINBURGH

Alcatel Space of France, Italy's Alenia Spazio and Astrium members Dornier Satellitensysteme and Matra Marconi Space are set to establish Galileo Industries by the end of the month as they prepare to bid for prime contractorship of Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system.

Galileo Industries, the partners' vehicle for the bid, will be based in Brussels, and aims to participate in the public-private partnership (PPP) that will finance the construction of the Galileo system. Galileo is expected to cost €2.2-3 billion ($2.4-3.3 million) to develop up to full operational capability in 2008.

Galileo Industries chairman Evert Dudok, speaking at the Global Navigation Satellite System 2000 conference in Scotland earlier this month, says that while the consortium's "final goal" is to be prime contractor on Galileo, its immediate task is to win approval for protected radio frequencies for the system at the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) in Istanbul this month.

"It's a key issue," says Dudok. "There are back-up strategies such as co-operation with Russia [whose ailing Glonass system already has protected frequencies], but if we don't get the frequencies we need it puts a big question mark over the whole project."

Galileo Industries is open to participation from other companies to help build infrastructure, but only in areas where they can contribute expertise the existing partners lack. Dudok says talks are under way with such subcontractors, adding: "We're trying to work out which ones are key, and the rules on how to join."

Galileo Industries companies have been heavily involved in the Galileo definition phase, which was launched late last year. Galileo's space infrastructure will feature either 30 medium earth orbit (MEO) platforms orbiting in three planes at an inclination of 54° and an altitude of 23,222km, or 24 MEOs disposed in three planes of 57° inclination and an altitude of 24,126km, plus eight satellites in geostationary earth orbit. The European Commission aims to make a decision on development launch of the system at the end of this year following the completion of detailed studies into the PPP, technical definition, legal and operational aspects.

Source: Flight International