The EU independent Galileo satellite navigation project's (independent of the US /China/Russia) has been struggling due to lack of funds. With one bound the budget is free as ( despite German resistance - who voted against) The EU has decided to fill out the Galileo project's massive budget gap with an additional 2.4 billion euros ($3.56 billion).
China's Compass, or Beidou, system is well on target to be operational next yearand although only covering the region in and around China initially , will eventually expand to cover the rest of the world. Russia is also developing its own system called Glonass , with the aid of India
The EU had originally pledged 1 billion euros, "private industry" was supposed to provide the rest but the consortium involved in the satnav project pulled out of the deal last spring, and Galileo's flight was threatened. The Galileo project is estimated at a total 3.4 billion euros and is expected to create over 100,000 new jobs in Europe.
Though 1.6 billion euros have been sprung fromthe EU's unused agriculture budget. This neat accounting trick was the brainchild of Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite. germany ob jected because their share (as the biggest contributor was of the order of 500 Mn Euros) - a Ministry of Finance mouthpiece said grudgingly ,""The result [of the vote] is relatively bad , but the nature of majorities is that you have to accept them."
The final agreement in a happy compromise was two-thirds will come from unspent farm aid budgeted this year and the rest will be drawn from funds earmarked for research next year.
Contracts to be granted in variety of sectors
Germany had originally suggested funds come from cuts to other EU research projects and initially had the support of Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. When the EU agreed to draw 600 million euros from other scientific endeavors in the bloc, Germany was the only country to maintain resistance to the financing plan. Spain abstained from voting.
In a plan to head off German concerns that the bulk of funds will go to French companies the project will be offered in 6 sectors , with no single company receiving a contract in more than two sectors, said European Commission spokeswoman Michele Cercone. UK based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) is joining forces with OHB, based in Bremen, Germany - OHB will build the satellites; SSTL would produce the electronic payloads. (BBC)
Despite their whinging Germany will still play the lead role through Astrium, a subsidiary of European aerospace group EADS, in the construction of the 26 satellites that are due to follow an initial four already planned in an initial phase.
One of the 2 land stations will be in Germany , with the second in Italy.
Greater accuracy than US counterpart
The project is critical in avoiding European military dependence on the United States' GPS navigation system. It is being sold publicly on the befits of greater precision and reliability - with accuracy for located objects within one meter - and the opportunity to be able to warn car drivers of traffic jams and accurately predict delays in the city bus system. The system has also been billed as a way to help rescue workers trace missing persons and by law enforcement officers locate escaped prisoners.
Galileo should have the planned 30 satellites in orbit by 2013.
UK Parliamentary opposition
As ever the Parliamentry Luddites have had their say - Gwyneth Dunwoody , Transport Committee Chairman said earlier this month ...``The government must stop this folly,'' . To fund Galileo, the EU ``is prepared to break all the rules for prudent budgetary discipline. This cannot be allowed to proceed.''
The Commitees report concluded ..."We are not opposed to the Galileo project per se, but we see no choice but to recommend that the British Government seek a debate on the future of Galileo at a European Council of Heads of State and Government. We also recommend that the Prime Minister discuss with other Heads of State and Government how to ensure that decisions of this magnitude will never again be pressed through in the unacceptable manner and on the basis of such poor evidence and analyses as has happened in the case of Galileo." (i.e stick a spoke in the wheel)
They continue in a remarkably democratic fashion ..."We believe it is essential that the UK Parliament is given the opportunity to debate developments in the Galileo programme once again before any decision is made on the project. British tax-payers will be paying around 17% of the cost of Galileo (" almost two-thirds of the cost of the entire Crossrail project" they helpfully remind us) "
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the first to defend the project after President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the program was “a major strategic target.” Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said it was of “fundamental importance” to the EU.
``Germany and France want this project,'' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin after talks with French President Nicholas Sarkozy. ``We have agreed that we don't want to put it off. We're deeply convinced that Europe needs this system.''
The UK can vote against the project but because it fails a threshold (0.03% threshold which would trigger the unanimity procedure ) for size of budget cannot veto it. Thank God. This approval is a good thing - even if it brings road pricing closer.
Washington's declared space doctrine is now set on maintaining dominance of the sector and also wants to deny the use of space assets by its competitors / adversaries. The US is reluctant when it comes to cooperating and sharing its advanced space technology (or any other) with other nations, even in the case of its European allies - a situation that has pushed other space-faring nations to cooperate among themselves.
As a direct consequence China and India are now seeking to challenge Washington's dominance of the launch industry as well as emerge as low-cost competitors in the manufacturing of satellites for the would-be space powers.
In September, India sent a spy satellite into orbit on behalf of Israel (who also participate in Galileo) , a traditional client of the US launch industry. A few months earlier, New Delhi put Italy's Agile satellite into orbit. In May, Beijing succeeded in launching a Chinese-manufactured communications satellite (NIGCOMSAT-1, aboard a Long March 3B rocket, ) into orbit on behalf of Nigeria from the Xichang space center in southwestern Sichuan province, (another symbol of China's broad network of economic relations with Africa) and a similar satellite is expected to be launched on behalf of South Africa and Brazil.
Nigeria hopes to sell communications bands to neighboring African countries and will operate the satellite from Abuja where they will offer services to Africa and parts of the Middle East and southern Europe. (Typical cost of internet access in East Africa is $200 to $300 a month !)See plans for undersea cable here.
It's a changing world and the dunderheads at Westminster haven't woken up to it yet.