The European Commission (EC) has awarded three of the six major contracts worth €1bn for its Galileo project, to allow for its rollout in early 2014.

Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system is an alternative to the US Global Positioning System and is expected to be deployed in a broad range of navigational devices, which will be used across all transport including Europe’s railways.

In particular, the EC will now be able to improve scheduling for the different Galileo services, namely the Open Service, the Public Regulated Service and the Search And Rescue Service.

Of the major contracts, a €566m contract has been awarded to German firm OHB System and UK firm SSTL to build the first 14 of a maximum of 32 satellites needed for the system.

French firm Arianespace has won the second €397m contract to launch the satellites, which covers the launch of five Soyuz launchers, each carrying two satellites, with the first launch scheduled for October 2012.

The third €85m contract has been awarded to Italian firm ThalesAleniaSpace for the system support services and covers the industrial services needed to support the European Space Agency for the integration and the validation of the Galileo system.

The remaining three contracts, for the ground mission infrastructure, the ground control infrastructure and the operations are expected to be awarded by mid-2010.