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Europe signs deal for eight more Galileo satellites

Posted: February 2, 2012

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The European Commission signaled Thursday it remains committed to the Galileo navigation network, finalizing contracts worth $400 million for eight more spacecraft and adapting the Ariane 5 launcher to deliver four satellites to orbit in a single flight.

Artist's concept of an OHB Galileo satellite in orbit. Credit: OHB System AG
The European Union's executive body selected OHB System AG of Germany for the eight-satellite deal. A commission press release said the contract with OHB System was valued at approximately 250 million euros, or about $328 million.

The 27-nation EU is paying about 31 million euros, or $41 million, for each of the eight new satellites.

The commission also contracted with Arianespace for three launch options on the Ariane 5 rocket, which can deliver four Galileo satellites to orbit on a single flight. The deal with Arianespace is worth 30 million euros, or about $39 million.

Astrium of France received another $39 million contract to technically enable the Ariane 5 ES launcher to carry four Galileo payloads by late 2014, according to the European Space Agency, which oversees development of the Galileo system.

The Galileo satellites operate in 14,400-mile-high orbits, and the Ariane 5 will need a special dispenser to deploy the craft in space.

"For Galileo, today's signing signifies the concrete rollout of the program is on time and within budget," said Antonio Tajani, the commission's vice president for industry and entrepreneurship. "I am proud that we could manage to speed up the delivery of satellites and launchers. This means that Europeans will be able to exploit the opportunities of enhanced satellite navigation provided by Galileo in 2014. I am also proud to see that Europe has a highly competitive space industry capable of realizing such an ambitious high tech program."

Eighteen Galileo satellites will be launched by the end of 2014, if all goes according to plan, enough to offer limited navigation services. The full 30-satellite constellation should be in space by 2019.

The Galileo program will consist of 30 satellites providing global navigation coverage. Credit: ESA
The EU's next seven-year budget cycle begins in 2014, when the commission is expected to place orders for additional satellites and procure launchers for the rest of the fleet.

The agreement with OHB System adds eight satellites to the 14 spacecraft already under awarded to the German space contractor. The 22 satellites are the first members of the Full Operational Capability phase of the Galileo program.

"The fact that OHB has been awarded a further contract constitutes an enormous success for us and is simultaneously acknowledgement of the work which we have performed to date on the Galileo FOC program," said Marco Fuchs, CEO of OHB System, based in Bremen. "We have been able to justify the trust placed in us by the European Commission and the ESA. Today's decision underscores the determination of all the parties involved to continue advancing the program as successfully as before."

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of the United Kingdom will build the navigation payloads for each of the spacecraft. OHB System is providing the satellite platforms and conducting final assembly of the spacecraft in Germany.

"SSTL has played a key role in the development of the Galileo program for nine years and we have the commitment, experience and track record to deliver this substantial contract," said Matt Perkins, CEO of the SSTL Group, a subsidiary of EADS Astrium. "We are delighted to have been selected with our partner, OHB, to continue to play our part in building Europe's operational navigation system."

An Ariane 5 rocket will be able to deliver four Galileo satellites to orbit on a single flight. The Russian Soyuz rocket can carry two payloads at a time. Credit: EADS Astrium
The eight new satellites will be delivered in 2015, immediately after OHB System finished work on the initial 14 FOC spacecraft. Firm arrangements for the launch of the next eight craft will likely not be decided until 2014, when the EU's next budget cycle begins.

Steffen Leuthold, a spokesperson for OHB System, said the company's first FOC satellite will be ready for launch by the end of 2012. The firm's Bremen facility will produce a complete FOC spacecraft every one-and-a-half months.

"There's no difference, neither in technology nor in system performance, between the 14 and the next eight [satellites]," Leuthold said.

The commission selected the OHB/SSTL team over a bid led by Astrium Satellites.

Astrium is managing the commission's first four Galileo satellites, a program called the In-Orbit Validation phase. The first pair of IOV payloads launched on a Soyuz rocket in October 2011, and the other two satellites are due for liftoff as soon as July or August.

The IOV satellites are assembled by Thales Alenia Space in Italy under a subcontract with Astrium.

Under the IOV and FOC contracts, the European Commission has now purchased 26 Galileo satellites.