On January 20, the European Commission stated that it would give contracts to two firms, Airbus Defense and Space, as well as Thales Alenia Space, to construct an initial package of the next-generation of Galileo navigation satellites, shutting down the existing OHB. Under agreements that will be officially concluded after January, Thales and Airbus will each develop 6 of these second-generation Galileo satellites. The total cost of the deals is 1.47 billion euros ($1.78 billion). However, the Commission did not reveal the cost of the contracts for each entity. The Twelve satellites will be the beginning of the Galileo system’s second generation, which will feature increased precision and durability.
In 2024, the first spacecraft will be eligible for deployment. Galileo is among the main pillars of the European Union’s space activities and, along with the Earth observation satellite Copernicus program, accounts for almost the European Union’s entire space budget. However, EU officials have said that both programs need to be improved to keep momentum with increasing requirements and growing capacity outside Europe. Galileo, as well as Copernicus, need evolution. Otherwise, they will quickly become outdated,’ cautioned Thierry Breton, the European Commission’s commissioner in charge of the internal market, in a talk at the European Space Conference on 12 January.
Technological advances to be integrated into the next generation of the Galileo satellites such as digitally reconfigurable antennas, more advanced atomic clocks, intersatellite links, and all-electric propulsion, he stated. “Galileo’s second generation will have remarkably enhanced service ability, particularly in the area of safe navigation as well as resilience to new risks,” Breton added. He never explained the project at a media briefing later in the meeting, quoting the awaiting contract award. OHB Group, the main contractor for this current generation of the Galileo satellites, has closed its contracts with Airbus as well as Thales.
In its official statement, the European Commission stated that a 2-month financial and technical evaluation was carried out by the European Space Agency, which also partners with the European Union on Galileo, and proposed the awards to Thales and Airbus. The assertion indicated there had been three bidders; however, the third bidder was not disclosed. OHB noted in a January 20 official statement that it had filed a proposition and had been made aware by ESA that it hasn’t been successful. That verdict, it explained, did not influence its ongoing contract for the supply of 34 Galileo satellites, twenty-two of which had already been supplied at different production stages with the remaining 12 satellites.