A German/UK consortium has been asked to supply the first operational spacecraft for Europe’s Galileo satellite-navigation system.
OHB System and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) will build 14 satellites in a contract valued at 566m euros ($811m; £510m).
The contract was announced by the European Commission in Brussels.
Galileo is intended as an EU version of the US Global Positioning System (GPS), but with significant improvements.
Its more advanced technology should give users quicker, more reliable fixes, and enable them to locate their positions with an error of one metre compared with the current GPS error of several metres.
European Commission vice-president with responsibility for transport, Antonio Tajani, also announced contracts to purchase the rockets on which to launch the satellites, and system management to oversee the Galileo project implementation.
The total value of the contracts announced is just over one billion euros. The contracts mean Galileo, which has been much delayed, should finally become operational in early 2014.
THE GALILEO SYSTEM WILL HAVE FIVE SERVICES:
OPEN ACCESS NAVIGATION: This will be ‘free to air’ and for use by the mass market; Simple timing and positioning down to 1m
COMMERCIAL NAVIGATION: Encrypted; High accuracy at the cm scale; Guaranteed service for which service providers will charge fees
SAFETY OF LIFE NAVIGATION:Open service; For applications where guaranteed accuracy is essential; Integrity messages will warn of errors
PUBLIC REGULATED NAVIGATION: Encrypted; Continuous availability even in time of crisis; Government agencies will be main users
SEARCH AND RESCUE: System will pick up distress beacon locations; Feasible to send feedback, confirming help is on its way