[ IcyImpact @ 17.12.2005. 19:06 ] @
Galileo to Launch First Satellite, GIOVE
Although no official word has emanated from the European Space Agency (ESA) or the Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU), knowledgeable sources report that the Big Five nations have reached an interim financial agreement on Galileo’s first industrial phase. The key member states — Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom — will contribute € 200 million of the foreseen € 400 million budget, an amount sufficient to launch the first satellites, secure frequencies allocated to Galileo by the International Telecommunications Union, sign a development contract with Galileo Industries, and move on with the first stages of the deployment program. Later stages will require a subsequent funding agreement of at least an additional € 200 million by the end of 2006, or face cancellation.
The initial phase consists of placing four satellites into orbit to validate the key technologies of the complex Galileo system. In full deployment, Galileo’s constellation will consist of 30 satellites, with operational capability expected at the end of 2010.
For the past several months, the Big Five have remained at the negotiating table in what some observers have characterized as “a poker game.” Since unanimous agreement — along with the respective funding contributions — was required to release the € 400 million necessary to complete In Orbit Validation (IOV), each country took its turn, sometimes multiple turns, in casting a veto. Even now, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom continue opposition to the ESA agreement.
Each country has a particular wishlist regarding location of key Galileo assets: research, manufacture, ground control, and communications facilities on its soil, or staffing percentages drawn from its large national aerospace contractors. Discussions are characterized as “intense.” European Commission (EC) Vice President for Transport Jacques Barrot has assigned former commissioner Karel van Miert as a mediator to resolve the impasse prior to the December 5 EC Transport Council.
Christening. Meanwhile Karla Peijs, the Dutch Minister of Transport, had the happier task of announcing the name of the first two satellites in the Galileo System Test Bed: GIOVE, signifying Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element.
GIOVE A, produced by Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd., will soon travel to the Baïkonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a scheduled December 26 launch aboard a Soyuz rocket. In-orbit testing of critical technologies includes atomic clocks and novel navigation signals. GIOVE A is designed to secure frequency filings, validate key technologies such as rubidium clocks, characterize the orbital environment, and deliver signal broadcasting over two transmission channels in parallel.
The second satellite, GIOVE B, currently undergoes final integration tests at the Alenia Spazio facilities in Rome, Italy, and will be launched later in 2006, also from Baïkonur. GIOVE B, developed by Galileo Industries — a consortium of Alcatel Space Industries (France), Alenia Spazio (Italy), Astrium GmbH (Germany), Astrium Ltd (UK) and Galileo Sistemas y Servicios (Spain) — will have similar objectives to GIOVE A, adding a passive hydrogen maser clock and simultaneous three-channel transmission.
Unatoč brojnim strahovanjima kako će projekt Galileo opet zapasti u nevolje i biti "stavljen na čekanje do daljnjega", čini se da će se taj projekt ipak u dogledno vrijeme ostvariti. Uskoro bi trebao biti lansiran prvi satelit, a Galileo bi se u konačnici, kad se taj cijeli projekt realizira, trebao sastojati od 30 satelita.