European Parliament sets funding for satellite navigation system

The European Parliament last week approved $6 billion in funding for the European Union's long-delayed Galileo satellite navigation system.

The EU originally intended to finance its answer to the United States' Global Positioning System through a public-private partnership, but that plan faltered earlier this year when private companies backed away from the deal. The EU now will completely fund development of the 30-satellite system, with some of the budget coming from unspent farm subsidies, according to Reimer Böge, chairman of the European Parliament's Budget Committee.

European Parliament officials said they had not reached an agreement on funding, Galileo "which is politically, economically and symbolically crucial for the EU, might have collapsed."

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot promised to spread Galileo contracts across a range of companies in Europe, which made the funding agreement more politically palatable, the Financial Times reported. Barrot said he intended to split the Galileo procurement into six segments, with any single prime contractor limited to two segments. Galileo is now is slated to go into operation in 2013, a year later than planned under the public-private partnership.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to beef up its GPS ground control segment, located at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. In September, the Air Force completed an $800 million project to switch the ground control system from 1970s-era mainframe computers to a new distributed architecture designed to support advanced GPS III satellites slated for launch in 2013.

Last week, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co. 18-month contracts worth $160 million each to design the GPS Next Generation control system. The winning design will be tapped for system development contracts worth $1 billion, according to Northrop Grumman. Raytheon said the control system will include anti-jam capabilities, improved security, accuracy and reliability, and will integrate government and industry open system standards.

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