The Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU) organisation deferred its selection of a preferred bidder for the concession contract for Europe's Galileo GPS navigation system in the face of Italian political and industrial pressure, say sources close the decision-making process.

The surprise decision not to announce the award of the concession on 1 March to either of the bidding consortia – iNavSat and Eurely – was attributed by the GJU to be due to the strength of both bids.

However, the sources say iNavSat was the frontrunner to win the concession, but concerted opposition by members of the Eurely consortium combined with massive pressure on the GJU resulted in the decision being postponed. The GJU did not respond to requests for comment.

Momentum is now building for the work to be shared between the two consortia. Eurely member Finmeccanica's chairman Pier Francesco Guarguaglini was the first senior member of a Galileo consortium to make such a suggestion, on 4 March. Last week, iNavSat member EADS's co-chief executive Rainer Hertrich said his company was "very open" to the idea of a joint solution.

The Italian political pressure stemmed from Rome's desire to see Galileo based in Italy, say the sources. The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) is Europe's first satellite navigation venture and has a control centre near Rome. It will begin operation this year. EGNOS will augment the US GPS and Russia's Glonass systems, making them suitable for safety critical applications such as aviation.


Source: Flight International