Europe unveils first round of contracts for Galileo satellites (SFN)

The European Commission has awarded a contract for the first 14 Galileo navigation satellites to OHB System of Germany and selected the Soyuz rocket to launch the constellation.

In an announcement Thursday, the commission said it selected OHB over a consortium led by Astrium for the first 14 spacecraft in the planned fleet of navigation satellites. OHB is partnering with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. for manufacturing and testing of the spacecraft.

SSTL will provide the navigation payloads for the satellites.

“With this and the upcoming awards for the remaining procurement packages, we are concluding a critical phase of the Galileo program,” said Antonio Tajani, the commission’s vice president for transport. “We can now focus on the actual rollout and demonstrate to European citizens that Europe’s own satellite navigation system is firmly underway.”

Delivery of the first satellite is expected in July 2012, and the commission said one satellite will be delivered every one-and-a-half months between then and March 2014.

OHB’s contract is valued at 566 million euros, or more than $810 million.

“The award of this contract to our team reflects the European faith in fair competition and shows that the EC and ESA consider us to be a highly trustworthy satellite supplier with leading-edge technology,” said Berry Smutny, CEO of OHB System.

The commission also announced launches of operational Galileo satellites would begin in October 2012 aboard Soyuz rockets provided by Arianespace. Initial public services would begin in early 2014 under the current schedule.

The contract with Arianespace, worth about $570 million, includes provisions for launches of the first 10 Galileo satellites, flying in pairs on five Soyuz rockets from a launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch agreement also includes options for two more Soyuz launches or a single Ariane 5 rocket with four Galileo spacecraft, the announcement said.

The first generation of the Galileo program will include up to 32 satellites, and contracts for the remaining 18 spacecraft will be awarded to either OHB or Astrium under a dual sourcing strategy to lower risks, according to the commission.

Another contract for system support services was announced Thursday with Thales Alenia Space.

The Galileo program will launch the first two in-orbit validation satellites on a Soyuz rocket in November to begin integrated testing of the spacecraft and ground systems. Two more satellites will be sent to orbit in April 2011. The validation satellites, built by Astrium, will later join the operational constellation.

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