Sunday, September 25, 2005

A question of money

Despite the concerns over the use of the EU's Galileo satellite system, it is as well to remember that this grand project is still in the planning stage, with its financial future far from assured.

A reminder of this came yesterday when Pascale Sourisse, the CEO of Alcatel Alenia Space – one of the consortium members which is building the system – told Le Figaro that a further €400 million was needed before the system can be launched.

Originally, another €1 billion was needed to cover the costs of commercial operators in the early days of the system, but the European Space Agency and the EU commission have contributed €600 million, leaving EU member states to finance the rest. However, says Sourisse, "The talks are difficult as an agreement requires the unanimous agreement of all parties."

In July Alcatel vice-President Olivier Houssin had said Galileo is expected to enter service at the end of 2010, but in June the German government warned the entire project would be "threatened", if the consortium in charge of the operation refuses to involve more German companies.

Sourisse now says that talks are ongoing to decide a "balanced share of responsibilities" between the participating countries, adding that it was "urgent for an agreement to be found... I hope we will be able to agree before the end of the year."

Considering that agreement was supposed to be reached this month, it would be interesting to know where the British government stood but, on this as with so many other important issues, it remains silent.

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