Astrium-led Galileo Industries is calling on the European Commission (EC) to immediately establish an interim management structure to lead development of Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system. The company is also urging Europe's transport ministers to make a positive decision on Galileo go-ahead at their meeting early next month.

The calls come amid industry fears that the Galileo project, which will provide a European equivalent to the US global positioning system, could slip further unless a positive decision is made to get on with its development. Europe's transport ministers opted last December to delay a go-ahead decision by four months to allow the EC and European Space Agency to resolve finance and control issues (Flight International, 2-13 January). "A positive decision in April is vital for the timely delivery of Galileo services. We don't want to see another delay," says Mike Healy, head of business development at Astrium.

Galileo Industries' concerns follow the recent release by Sweden, current European Union president, of a Galileo resolution for presentation to transport ministers. Although Sweden is positive about Galileo, it has identified four unresolved issues - the management structure, service definition, financing and an independent assessment of the cost-benefit analysis.

Sweden's proposal calls for a work plan to be approved next month, with full go-ahead in December once industry has provided the "fundamental data", including funding commitments. "Industry would rather see a three-year plan," says Healy, adding that expecting the private sector to give a binding financial commitment by December is unrealistic.

Around €3.3 billion ($3 billion) is required for Galileo, with €1.8 billion from the public sector, which is looking to industry to provide the rest. Galileo Industries, which includes Alcatel Space and Alenia Spazio, says that while the private sector, including competing consortium Thales-led Siderius, made statements of financing intent last year, commitment is unlikely before 2004.

Healy says that a private-finance initiative is appropriate for Galileo - similar to that used by the UK Ministry of Defence with its Skynet 5 programme whereby two consortia have development deals to compete for the final contract.

Galileo Industries is proposing a two-phase structure to manage the programme to allow technical work to begin. Initially, an interim supervisory board should lead the programme, with technical management and commercial management streams, says Healy. From 2003-4, Healy proposes a Galileo Agency to define the public service requirements, select private partners and procure services, and a Galileo private-public partnership company, with infrastructure and operations streams.

Healy says an early entry into commercial service - involving 10 of the total 30 medium Earth orbit constellations - is needed ahead of 2007-8 full capability, to improve GPS, attract investment and stimulate market awareness.

Source: Flight International