Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Legislative Reference

COM(2007)261 of 2007-05-16

Galileo is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA), aiming to provide the first satellite positioning and navigation system specifically for civil purposes and state-of-the-art services with outstanding performance in accuracy, continuity and availability.


Satellite navigation is a technology allowing users worldwide to pinpoint their location at any time. The possible range of applications is wide and spans a large set of domains, from traditional transport to communication, land survey, agriculture, environment protection, scientific research and others. Furthermore, it can ease civil protection operations in harsh environments, speed up rescue operations for people in distress at sea, and provide tools for coastguards and border controls.

Following the European Council conclusions in Nice in December 2000, the launch of the European satellite navigation programme, Galileo, was approved by the Council Resolution of 5 April 2001. The Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU) was set up in 2002 to complete the development and prepare for the following phases of the Galileo programme and on 4 July 2005, the GJU agreed to the creation of a merged consortium, the European Global Satellite Navigation systems (GNSS). The latter, located in Toulouse and composed of 8 partners (AENA, Alcatel, EADS, Finmeccanica, Hispasat, Inmarsat, Thales and TeleOp) acts as the regulatory authority for the GNSS during the deployment and operational phases of the Galileo programme.

Galileo is based on a constellation of 30 satellites, placed in a medium earth orbit (at an altitude of approximately 24 000 km) providing continuous coverage of the entire surface of the Earth. The selected configuration is optimal as it ensures the presence of a minimum of four satellites above any point of the Earth at any moment and navigation receivers can calculate their position only if they receive the signals of a minimum of four satellites simultaneously.

The system characteristics are the result of approximately ten years of design and technical qualification. Many possible configurations were assessed in an open process which allowed experts and potential users of navigation systems to express their views in order to ultimately determine and agree on the Galileo mission requirements. Design teams both in the European Space Agency (ESA) and in industry, defined the system in an interactive process and tailored the programme in line with these mission and performance requirements.

The first Galileo satellite was launched in December 2005. Since then, close and fruitful cooperation has been developed with the United States of America which has led to a European Union - United States agreement on the full interoperability of Global Positioning System (GPS) and Galileo open signals together with a recent joint decision to improve their characteristics, effectively establishing a global standard for satellite navigation.

Global Satellite Navigation systems (GNSS) are rapidly developing into critical infrastructures for modern society and Galileo has become a flagship project for both its strategic value and its contribution to Community policies. Moreover, Galileo is a pillar of the emerging European Space Policy and signifies Europe's ambitions in space, technology and innovation.

The European Parliament reiterated its support for the Galileo programme, expressed its concerns about the progress made, and called on the European Commission to come forward with appropriate proposals for ensuring its political responsibility and leadership.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council Galileo at a cross-road: the implementation of the European GNSS programmes

Council Regulation (EC) No 876/2002 of 21 May 2002 setting up the Galileo Joint Undertaking.

Council Resolution of 5 April 2001 on Galileo.


The European Commission has pursued the public-private partnership (PPP) approach for the implementation of Galileo, but has re-profiled it through two alternative scenarios with different times at which a private partner will assume the programme's responsibility:

- 'Initial operational capacity' procurement, followed by a private-public partnership

The public sector finances and procures an operational system with limited performances. This core infrastructure is composed of 18 satellites with the associated ground segment. The 'Initial operational capacity' (IOC) procurement allows provision of early Galileo services for a wide range of users and provides confidence on design robustness to the future concessionaire. The remaining 12 satellites are procured by the private sector under the public-private partnership (PPP) concession scheme, which also contains the operations and exploitation activities.

The IOC will be ready by the end of 2011, with users having access only to early services, while full deployment and service availability can be achieved by the end of 2013. The PPP, provided that it is signed in time, will cover the period from 2010 to 2030.

- Full operational capacity procurement, followed by a private-public partnership

In this scenario, the public sector will finance the complete operational system with full performance. This infrastructure is composed of 30 satellites with the associated ground segment. In an intermediate step the infrastructure will reach a constellation of initial operational capability by the end of 2011 and full deployment before 2013. It will allow the provision of all Galileo services for all targeted users and confidence of design robustness to the future concession holder.
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