The European Space Agency has awarded the multi-national Galileo Industries joint venture the first development contract for the European Galileo satellite navigation system.

Building on Galileo Industries' earlier successes during the programme's definition phase, the new €10-20 million ($9.8-19.6 M) award covers the development of the first version of the Galileo system test bed (designated as the GSTB - V1).

Here, GSTB-V1 is described as being intended to contribute to the validation of a number of Galileo system concepts including its main navigation processing algorithms and system integrity solutions.

As part of the 30-month long process, the existing European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) ground infrastructure (implemented on a 30 ground station network) will be used to collect existing satellite data, evaluate currently available performance and extrapolate what will be the ultimate performance of the Galileo system. As currently planned, Galileo will make use of a 30 satellite constellation and is scheduled to become operational during 2008. Established during 2000, the Galileo Industries joint venture is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, has a permanent staff of around 40 and has as its shareholders France's Alcatel Space, Germany's Astrium GmbH, Italy's Alenia, Spain's Systemas y Servicios (itself a joint venture) and the UK's Astrium UK. The US is bitterly opposed to the Galileo project because of its potential impact on the American military's Global Positioning System, the US's inability to control it and a talked-up potential for its use as a guidance system for terrorist threats.