Norway Pledges 70M Euros as It Joins Galileo Program

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PARIS — Norwegian and European Union (EU) authorities on Sept. 22 signed a cooperation agreement on Europe’s future Galileo satellite positioning and timing project that will permit Norway, which is not an EU member, to provide Galileo hardware and polar ground stations for the Galileo system.

Under the agreement, Norway will contribute 70 million euros ($91 million) to Galileo and will commit itself to defending Galileo radio spectrum at international regulatory agencies.

The 27-nation European Union’s executive commission is managing the Galileo project with technical and financial help from the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA). Norway is an ESA member and as such has made limited contributions to Galileo already.

But as Canada found out earlier this year, being inside ESA — Canada is an associate member — does not give a nation any special rights at the European Commission.

Canada, which had worked with ESA for several years to develop Galileo’s search-and-rescue payload and invested millions in the effort, was told it could not provide those terminals to the Galileo system because it was reserved for EU members or nations with existing security treaties with the EU.

The EU-Norway agreement assigns Norway responsibility for building and maintaining two Galileo ground stations — one on Norway’s Svalbard Island in the Arctic, and one on Norwegian Antarctic Territory.

Norwegian companies “will also be allowed to supply some niche technologies to Galileo,” the commission said in a statement announcing the agreement, which it said relates specifically to areas “related to security, ground stations and radio spectrum” that are not covered by existing accords.

The agreement was signed by Heinz Zourek, head of the commission’s Enterprise directorate, and by Oda Helen Sletnes, Norway’s ambassador to the EU.

Galileo is designed as a 30-satellite constellation in medium Earth orbit to provide positioning, navigation and timing services to commercial, government and military users. The program has not yet secured the funding needed to deploy the full constellation, but commission officials say a 14-satellite constellation should be in orbit in 2014 to provide initial service.