* Two final contracts signed, worth 354.5 mln euros
* Programme costs 500 mln euros less than previous estimate
* First satellites operational in 2014, with 24 total
By Christopher Le Coq
BRUSSELS, June 22 Europe's Galileo global
navigation system has finalised its last two contracts, adding
six satellites to the programme and saving 500 million euros
($717 million) from the final bill, the European Commission said
The Galileo project, which the European Union hopes will
rival the U.S. Global Positioning System network, will put 24
satellites into orbit instead of a previously expected 18, for a
total cost of 4.8 billion euros.
The EU reduced the final bill through rationalising costs
and putting pressure on industry for an improved deal, the
European Commission's industry spokesman Carlo Corazza said.
The final contracts, signed with France's Thales Alenia
Space and EADS Astrium for 281 million and
73.5 million euros, respectively, will contribute to providing
services for humanitarian search and rescue missions, as well as
functions restricted to government bodies and an open signal for
all other users of positioning and navigation services.
"Signature of the contracts marks the end of a rigorous
procurement process, and the beginning of a new chapter for
Galileo," EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani said in a
The European Commission has estimated that Galileo, which
will send its first satellites into orbit this October, will
deliver 60 billion euros to the European economy over 20 years
and will also avoid the cost of relying on other systems.
But experts have questioned whether the system can deliver
all the benefits and cost savings that its planners envisage.
The 27-nation European Union agreed to invest public money
in Galileo when commercial backers withdrew in 2007, with the
project having suffered setbacks because of disputes over
The system, controlled by civil rather than military
authorities, will provide initial services from 2014.
(Reporting by Christopher Le Coq; Editing by Rex Merrifield and