The European Galileo satellite navigation system’s Galileo Operating Company’s (GOC) interim chief executive has welcomed the prospect of a government funding increase, in his first public comments since the programme’s crisis began.
A different financing arrangement is necessary to cope with the difficult design and market risks the project faces, according to GOC interim chief executive Jean-Francois Bou speaking exclusively to Flight.
GOC is the new company, created on 26 March, that represents the European companies that had been bidding as two separate consortiums earlier in the programme, before becoming the Merged Consortium.
Bou says, “It would indeed make sense to increase this [public] budget; however not to overcome the so-called difficulties of profitably funding [the] work share between GOC partners; but rather to alleviate some of the project risks."
Merged Consortium sources had told Flight that the economics of Galileo’s public private partnership would have worked if one of the original consortiums had been allowed to win the contract, but the politically enforced solution, to share all the work between all the companies in both consortiums, had made the project unprofitable.
That situation was rumoured to have been created by the interference of the German and Italian governments. Spain has also been named as a source of interference since the consortium merger.
Merged Consortium’s subsequent failure to agree a contract last year, with the Galileo Joint Undertaking organisation that oversaw the development of Galileo systems, and then with the European GNSS Supervisory Authority, which in future will own Galileo’s assets, this year led to the European transport commissioner responsible for Galileo, Jacques Barrot, demanding progress by 10 May.
No formal statement is planned from GOC before the 10 May deadline but the company did send a letter to Barrot on the 26 April. Bou has told Flight that that set out a way forward to resume negotiations and answered Barrot’s questions regarding the status of GOC’s governance.
On 16 May Barrot is expected to spell out possible future arrangements for Galileo and give an update on progress following the outcome of the 10 May deadline.
Bou and his fellow chief executives are not aware of the details of the proposals expected to be unveiled by the European Commission on 16 May.
On the same day the European Space Agency, which has led Galileo satellite development work, will have its navigation programme board meeting. Its second Galileo technology test spacecraft, Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element-B, is expected to be launched at the end of this year.
A senior Commission official and industrial sources have told Flight that the use of Galileo for military purposes could provide a source of income for GOC from governments’ defence departments.
A 22 May European space policy resolution by the European Union and ESA at the joint space council may include a call for the dual use of space technology, for military and civilian purposes.