EU starts looking for Galileo suppliers

The European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) have launched procurement for the first of thirty constellations of the European satellite navigation system, the EU rival to America's Global Positioning System (GPS).

The ESA launched its last test satellite in April of this year, but this will be the first leg of the actual system, which is expected to be fully in place by 2013.

European Commission (EC) vice-president in charge of transport Antonio Tajani said the 3.4 billion (2.4 billion) Galileo program will bring the EU into the period of space age technology, and will increase job opportunities.

"By launching this procurement, we are preparing to launch Galileo into a new era where space age technology brings down-to-earth benefits for every citizen and business in Europe," Tajani said. "With Galileo, the European Union will buy a state-of the-art satellite navigation system which will increase economic efficiency and reduce congestion and energy consumption throughout the transport sector. That means boosting growth and jobs and helping to tackle climate change, while also making daily life safer and easier."

In this first phase of the procedure, interested companies should submit a "Request to Participate" to the ESA, and will be short-listed based on criteria set by the ESA.

The notice of the procurement, published in the EU Official Journal on Tuesday, said it is looking for suppliers for six work packages: system support, ground mission segment, ground control segment, space segment (satellites), launch services, and operations.

The Galileo program had previously met with controversy over funding, but in September of last year the EC adopted a proposal to finance the missing 2.4 billion (1.9 billion) to finish the project.