The $4.9 billion Galileo system was designed to challenge GPS, the U.S.-operated Global Positioning System. However, the project has been plagued by delays, software glitches, and bickering among its eight commercial sponsors. The result is a "serious and profound crisis” that threatens to derail the multinational effort, according to EU spokesman Wolfgang Tiefensee, who serves as Germany's transport minister.
The most serious problem appears to be funding. With the consortium's French, German, Spanish and British partners unable to agree on Galileo's operational structure and future direction, the EU is now considering alternatives for underwriting the massive project. Tiefensee told the Associated Press that the EU is seeking to create a "public-private partnership" to share the cost of completing the planned 30-satellite system.
To date, only one satellite has been launched. A second satellite suffered technical problems during testing, forcing postponement of its launch last fall. Plans originally called for the navigation system — billed as the first civilian-owned and operated global navigation network — to be operational next year, however the latest projections suggest that Galileo won't be ready for commercial use until 2012.
While Galileo's terrestrial sponsors continue to squabble over everything from launch timetables to the location of control rooms and other support facilities here on Earth, public support and commercial prospects for the project seem to be ebbing. Along with mounting financial and political obstacles, competition is increasing. China and Russia are actively launching their own constellations of navigation satellites to compete with the established GPS system.
The European Space Agency tried to soften the impact of European Commission criticism of Galileo this week by announcing that the systems lone satellite, GIOVE-A, successfully transmitted a navigation signal during a May 2 test. The ESA press release emphasized that GIOVE-A's signal is interoperable with the U.S. GPS system.
quote: GPS is not exactly free. There are royalties paid on every GPS device that uses the GPS service, and wears the GPS badge.
quote: what if the USA decide to turn GPS off to non military people - it is afterall something they can do on a whim