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GIOVE-B IN ORBIT, GALILEO "ON ITS WAY".

Giove-B is in orbit. The second test satellite for Galileo, the European satellite navigation programme, was launched successfully, on 27 April, from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It reached orbit at 23,222 kilometres from earth. Just days after the European Parliament's vote approving the regulation on implementation of the system's deployment and operational phases, the event was welcomed by Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot as "the best proof that Galileo is on its way".

With more than a year's delay due to technical problems, Giove-B takes over from Giove-A, the first test satellite launched in December 2005, which is reaching the end of its life cycle. Built by Germany's Astrium and Thales Alenia Space, Giove-B will test a number of key technical elements for the Galileo network. These include the most precise atomic clock ever put into orbit. The satellite operates under the control of the operations centre in Fucino, Italy.

Giove-B, like Giove-A, does not form part of the 30 satellites that will make up the Galileo network. The first four in the network will be placed in orbit in 2010 and the entire constellation will be deployed by 2013. These first four satellites are being built now and the first invitation to tender for the construction of the others is expected to be issued soon.

Jacques Barrot commented that what counts now is to "meet the deadlines". The commissioner, who followed the operations in Fucino, is "optimistic". He added, though, that keeping to the timeframe will require close control over the public procurement process. According to an industry representative involved in the project, the existing timeframe will be hard to respect. "It takes at least 48 months after the signature of contracts for satellites to be manufactured and made available on the ground." That means that all the invitations to tender must be issued and "the contracts signed before the end of 2008 if we want to meet the 2013 deadline". He added that this seems unrealistic and that deployment by 2015 may be more feasible.

This article was first published in Europolitics 3520.a

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Publication:European Report
Article Type:Reprint
Date:Jun 24, 2008
Words:347
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