The European satellite positioning system, Galileo, will be able to afford to launch 24 satellites with existing funding.
The announcement was made at the Paris Air Show by European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, who has overall responsibility in Brussels for the project.
The project has been plagued by delays and over-running costs – the first two operational satellites were meant to be in space already, but their launch has been delayed until October – and was previously only able to afford to launch 18 satellites. 24 satellites is the minimum required for global coverage, so the announcement is welcome.
The original plans called for 30 satellites in the constellation, which would have provided ideal coverage, but most receivers will be able to understand both GPS and Galileo signals, so most non-government users won’t notice a difference.
Mr Tajani told the Paris Air Show event that the savings were thanks to the extra efforts made by industry to curb costs and from an improvement in the management of project resources as a whole. Of the 500m Euros in reserve, and after other commitments are taken out, the EC VP believes he will have about 300m Euros available to spend.
The new budget assumes that sufficient rockets can be found to launch the extra satellites, and that there are no launch failures or other problems before or after the launches. If this happens, the 24 satellites could be in orbit by 2015/16.