The European Union (EU) has approved a joint bid from two groups that previously had competed against each other for the contract to run the $4 billion Galileo satellite navigation system.
The EU in March delayed a decision about who would operate Galileo, saying it needed more time to determine which of two opposing plans offered the better value. The postponement prompted the rival teams to join forces and submit the merged proposal, which the EU accepted last month. The agreement brings together a consortium consisting of EADS Space, Inmarsat and Thales and another including Finmeccanica, Alcatel, Aena and Hispasat.
Galileo is scheduled to enter service in 2008. The European satnav service is a clone of GPS that will consist of a network of 30 satellites (compared to GPS’s 24) to provide worldwide position accuracy to within a few feet. Partner countries want Galileo as a backup to the U.S. Pentagon-controlled GPS network.