The contract to operate the European Galileo satellite navigation system will now be signed by the end of the second quarter of 2006. The original plan was to select one of two consortia bidding for the concession by the end of this year.


After European political wrangling, the two bidders, iNavsat and EUrely, have become a single entity with the working name Merged Consortia.

The combined team is now in talks with the Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU), the European Union and European Space Agency organisation that is managing the development phase.

“By the end of the year we want to have agreed the insurance, finances and the consortium’s business plan,” says the GJU.

Between January next year and mid-2006 the final contract will be negotiated. The GJU expects Galileo to become operational at some point between 2008 and 2010. It was originally to enter service in 2008.

ESA, meanwhile, has unveiled the launch dates for its two Galileo test satellites. The Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element (GIOVE)-A satellite, built by the UK’s Surrey Satellite Technology, will be launched by a Soyuz booster from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in late December. The second, GIOVE B satellite built by Alcatel Alenia Space Italy in Rome, will also be launched from Baikonur, but in 2006.


Source: Flight International