PARIS — The German government on Nov. 12 formally committed $630 million to finance Europe’s next-generation meteorological satellite system, a decision likely to have a snowball effect on the several governments that have yet to confirm their participation, government and industry officials said.
In a communication sent to Europe’s Eumetsat organization of Darmstadt, Germany, the German Transport Ministry confirmed Germany’s agreement to pay 19.3 percent of Eumetsat’s majority share of the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) program. Germany’s contribution is equivalent to 457 million euros ($630 million) of the 2.37 billion euros in Eumetsat’s estimated MTG costs.
The 26-nation Eumetsat will be operating the six MTG satellites. With Germany’s commitment, the program now has 75 percent of its required Eumetsat funding.
The 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA) is paying the remainder of MTG’s estimated 3.3 billion euros in costs, including the design and development of the satellites. Germany and France each have agreed to finance 34 percent of ESA’s MTG program.
It was ESA’s decision earlier this year to select a French company, Thales Alenia Space, ahead of Germany’s Astrium Satellites as MTG prime contractor that prompted a months-long protest by the German Transport Ministry and delayed the contract’s approval at Eumetsat.
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ESA was obliged to delay signing the 1.25 billion-euro MTG satellite contract with Thales Alenia Space and its principal partner, OHB Technology of Bremen, Germany. A contract signing ceremony is expected sometime before the end of November.
MTG work shares eventually were renegotiated following the German protest, giving German companies in general, and Astrium’s German division in particular, a higher contract volume than had been intended when the contract decision was made last spring.
Eumetsat Director-General Lars Prahm has said the MTG program is on track for final approval at a Nov. 30-Dec. 1 meeting of Eumetsat’s ruling council. Eumetsat commonly starts programs only after reaching a consensus of its member states, who contribute according to a formula based on the size of their economies. That makes Germany the biggest contributor at about 19.3 percent, followed by Britain (15.6 percent), France (14.7 percent) and Italy (12 percent).
The six MTG satellites — four imaging and two ultraviolet and infrared sounding spacecraft — are scheduled for launch starting in 2017 or 2018.