Europe defends 'stupid' Galileo satellite

January 18, 2011 by Yann Ollivier
A computer-generated image shows three satellites, part of the European Galileo navigation system network, in 2002. Europe stood by its much-delayed and over-budget Galileo satellite navigation system on Tuesday despite a rising price tag and a contractor's description of the project as "stupid."

Europe stood by its much-delayed and over-budget Galileo satellite navigation system on Tuesday despite a rising price tag and a contractor's description of the project as "stupid."

Previously estimated to cost 3.4 billion euros, the said an extra 1.9 billion euros was needed to complete the constellation of satellites, raising its price tag to 5.4 billion euros ($7.2 billion).

Aimed at rivaling the US-built (GPS) and Chinese and Russian projects, the system needs more cash due to the higher costs of the development phase and satellite launchers, the commission said.

"We need to bear in mind that Russia is engaged in deploying its global system and China is continuing to increase its own systems too. Japan and India are also entering the scene," Tajani said.

"That means Europeans cannot lag behind," he told a news conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Galileo is scheduled to go online in 2014 -- six years later than originally planned -- with an initial constellation of 18 satellites. The first two satellites will be launched in the third quarter of this year.

But the commission said in a policy paper that 3.4 billion euros was "not enough to complete the infrastructure."

An extra 1.9 billion euros is needed to launch the remaining 12 satellites by 2020 and offer the full services promised by the project.

In addition, the commission said the operating costs for Galileo and a sister system called EGNOS will amount to 800 million euros a year.

Europe wants to end its dependence on the US GPS system in a market the commission said would grow from 130 billion euros in 2010 to 240 billion euros in 2020.

"The Galileo project is going ahead, the commission has decided on this," Tajani said.

"It will improve the lives of citizens in sectors such as transport, agriculture, energy and combatting illegal immigration," he added.

A row erupted over the system after the whistleblower website WikiLeaks published a US diplomatic cable quoting scathing criticism from the head of German firm OHB Technology, which was awarded a 566-million-euro to develop 14 Galileo satellites.

According to an October 2009 cable from the US embassy in Berlin, OHB Technology chief Berry Smutny said: "I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests."

He went on to say that Galileo was "a waste of EU taxpayers' money championed by French interests," according to the cable.

The company announced Tuesday that it had suspended Smutny, who has denied making the comments.

Tajani dismissed the WikiLeaks report, saying he had met Smutny before the leak and that he had stated that he believed in Galileo. The company has since committed "wholeheartdly to delivering the Galileo system," Tajani said.

"WikiLeaks isn't the gospel," Tajani said.

Explore further: Galileo satellite boss suspended over WikiLeaks cable

Related Stories

Galileo satellite boss suspended over WikiLeaks cable

January 18, 2011

The head of a German firm working on Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system has been suspended after a WikiLeaks cable cited him as describing it as a "stupid idea", the company said on Tuesday.

Galileo satnav system called 'stupid idea': US cable

January 13, 2011

The head of a German firm working on Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system called it a "stupid idea" being pushed by France for military reasons, a leaked US diplomatic cable showed Thursday.

EU rejects 'exorbitant' price talk for Galileo maps

October 26, 2010

A top European official slapped down reports on Tuesday that the much-delayed Galileo satellite navigation system could be 20 billion euros over budget, as he named a new contractor for the project.

Europe Wants To Speed Up Galileo GPS Program

November 18, 2005

Former European commissioner Karel Van Miert has been appointed mediator to accelerate Galileo, Europe 's satellite navigation program, said the European Commission on Tuesday.

EU's Galileo satnav system over budget, late: report

October 7, 2010

Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system, meant to rival the US-built Global Positioning System (GPS), is over budget, running late and will be unprofitable for years, a press report said on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Hubble catches a transformation in the Virgo constellation

December 9, 2016

The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is especially rich in galaxies, due in part to the presence of a massive and gravitationally-bound collection of over 1300 galaxies called the Virgo Cluster. One particular member of ...

Khatyrka meteorite found to have third quasicrystal

December 9, 2016

(—A small team of researchers from the U.S. and Italy has found evidence of a naturally formed quasicrystal in a sample obtained from the Khatyrka meteorite. In their paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, ...

Scientists sweep stodgy stature from Saturn's C ring

December 9, 2016

As a cosmic dust magnet, Saturn's C ring gives away its youth. Once thought formed in an older, primordial era, the ring may be but a mere babe – less than 100 million years old, according to Cornell-led astronomers in ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 18, 2011
Seems to me this is one case where a unified effort by all concerned countries should have been undertaken so that a single integrated system would be deployed. What will happen, instead, is the deployment of a gaggle of competing systems, all incompatible with each other. That, IMO, is the "stupid" component of not only the Galileo system, but all of the separate systems, including the US GPS, because of rampant duplication of effort and the accompanying wastage of vast amounts of money. This, in economic conditions where saving these vast sums of money would be extremely beneficial to all countries concerned! Go figure!!
5 / 5 (4) Jan 18, 2011
Well LariAnn, that would just make to much sense and would fly in the face of the Global stupidity that plagues the highest level of all governments.
5 / 5 (7) Jan 18, 2011
The US GPS system is run by and for the US military. Thus, availability world wide is subject to potential interruption. Thus the duplicate efforts. Sad.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 19, 2011
yeah what if a country has to take out the satellite system of a country that they depend on for positioning? it could get awkward.
4.5 / 5 (2) Jan 19, 2011
Redundancy is not necessarily stupid. What if the only GPS system in the world belonged to China? Would you feel comfortable? Redundancy is also a good way to make add robustness to a system.
That said, when the contractor building the system says outright that it is a stupid idea, something clearly isn't right.
not rated yet Jan 19, 2011
But I am sure that that contractor is only one of many. And why does his statement even make it to the news? Weird. In any case having more than one system is not necessary a bad idea...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.