Finmeccanica Venture Wins 194 Million-Euro Galileo Contract

A German-Italian joint venture that includes Finmeccanica SpA won a 194 million-euro ($271 million) contract to support the European Union’s flagship satellite project, moving the EU closer to creating a rival to the U.S. GPS system.

SpaceOpal GmbH, established by the German Aerospace Center and Finmeccanica’s Telespazio SpA unit, received the contract for the operations of the space and ground infrastructure of the planned 4.5 billion-euro Galileo road, rail, ship and air-traffic control network.

The accord covers the industrial services needed to support the European Space Agency in the operations of the satellites and ground system, the EU said. This is the fourth of six contracts for the procurement of Galileo’s operational capability starting in 2014.

“We are fully committed to the roll-out of the system,” EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani said in a statement today in Brussels. “Europe will have its own independent satellite navigation system capable of high precision and reliability.”

Galileo, one of Europe’s biggest industrial projects since Airbus in the 1970s, was on the verge of collapse in 2007 after companies led by European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. and Alcatel-Lucent SA balked at a plan to share the costs, citing the risks tied to launching and operating the system. That prompted a public bailout.

In January this year, the European Commission awarded three Galileo contracts worth a total of around 1 billion euros for engineering support, launchers and satellites. The two remaining contracts, covering completion of the ground-mission and ground-control infrastructure, will be awarded in “early 2011,” the commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm, said today.

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