Lost satellites the latest setback to Galileo GPS network

Ever since its inception, the European Space Agency Galileo program has been a project that embodies the saying, 'a day late and a dollar short.'
By David Sims | Aug 24, 2014
Ever since its inception, the Galileo program has been a project that embodies the saying, 'a day late and a dollar short,' and the two European Space Agency satellites that were launched into the wrong orbital position August 22 are the latest setback to the embattled program.

In 1994, the Galileo program was conceived as a mechanism that could liberate Europe from dependency on the American Global Positioning System (GPS) network, which has been operational since the 1970s. Implementing their own system would free Europe from utilizing the American GPS network for not only civilian purposes like navigation for cars and commercial ships, but also from military uses such as missile guidance.

In 2003 the European leadership gave their blessings to the project, and work began. The Galileo network was scheduled to be functional by 2010, with a total cost of approximately $4.9 billion (adjusted to 2014 dollars); however, according to a 2011 report in TIME Magazine, the project was to be complete in 2017 at a cost of $9.1 billion. Project cost estimates continue to balloon yearly, in 2013 project managers estimated a final cost of $12.3 billion.

However, monetary woes are merely one problem for the program; the reputation of the Galileo program is not highly regarded, domestically or abroad. In 2010, when Wikileaks released a massive amount of US State Department diplomatic cables, one contained a correspondence between United States Embassy in Berlin that detailed confidential remarks made by a chief executive of the German satellite maker OHB Technology, Berry Smutny. A week before OHB received an $800 million subsidy from the program to build its satellites, Smutny proclaimed that Galileo was "a stupid idea," and "a waste of E.U. taxpayers' money championed by French interests." After the cables were released Smutny was suspended by OHB, and ultimately fired.

In 2011 and 2012, Arianespace, a Prague-based company, launched the first four satellites of the Galileo constellation, which will ultimately have 30 satellites in orbit by 2017. The latest launch was going to add the fifth and sixth Galileo satellites to the network.


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