The first two satellites of the EU’s Galileo
satellite programme will be launched on Thursday October 20th from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana
, the European Commission has announced today.
Taking its name after the Italian Galileo Galilei
, the "father of modern observational astronomy
", the much-delayed programme was first devised in 1999 and got the go-ahead in 2003 by has been plagued with criticism and setbacks regarding its funding.
In 2007, the public-private partnership set up to provide funding collapsed, leaving the EU public purse to foot the entire bill
, and a British House of Commons report
in September that year denounced it as "a textbook example for how not to run an infrastructure project
While a definitive cost figure remains unknown, estimates of €3bn were swiftly upgraded to nearer €5.4bn, and a leaked paper back in October 2010
even put this figure in excess of €20bn – a figure that angered South West MEP Giles Chichester
who exclaimed: “this figure is astonishing. We are in favour of Galileo but not at any price
But Antonio Tajani
, the European Commissioner of Industry and Entrepreneurship, says the project is now “running on schedule and saving money” and thus the process of launching the first of an eventual fleet of 18 satellites into orbit can begin.
“This launch is of historical importance,
” he said,
“Europe is demonstrating that it has the capability to be at the forefront of technological innovation. Thousands of SMEs and innovators across Europe will be able to spot business opportunities and to create and develop their products based on the future Galileo infrastructure. Citizens will benefits from its services. Galileo is value for money and I count on Members States’ cooperation to find a solution for its financing.
The Commission hopes that the project will rival the US Global Positioning System (GPS) that is widely used in a wide range of navigational devices such as those used by drivers to find street directions and provide EU citizens with better coverage boasting it will give users greater accuracy - down to a metre and less, greater penetration in urban centres, inside buildings, and under trees, as well as faster connection times.
Successive launches will complete the constellation by 2019, but the service is scheduled to go online in 2014 – a mere six years later than originally planned.
Labels: Giles Chichester