The European Union (EU) is finalizing a deal with SpaceX to launch four Galileo navigation satellites in 2024, according to reports. Thierry Breton, the European Commission’s commissioner for the internal market, revealed during the European Space Summit in Seville, Spain, that discussions were in their final stages. The plan is for a pair of Falcon 9 rockets to carry two Galileo satellites each, with tentative launches scheduled for April and July of 2024.
The main obstacle remaining is negotiating a security agreement to safeguard sensitive technologies on the Galileo satellites during their preparation for launch in the United States. Previously, these satellites were launched from the European spaceport in French Guiana.
The launch contract itself was completed in July, with the European Commission approving the European Space Agency’s proposal to use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The European Commission has allocated $192 million for the Falcon 9 launches.
The decision to use SpaceX lies with the Commission, as confirmed by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher during a recent meeting of the European Space Agency (ESA) Council. This decision was reached following discussions held for over a year due to delays in the Ariane 6, the retirement of the Ariane 5, and the withdrawal of the Soyuz rocket after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Galileo satellites to be launched by SpaceX will enhance the existing operational Galileo constellation and serve as replacements should other satellites fail.
It is worth noting that ESA had already contracted SpaceX for three Falcon 9 launches. The selection of Falcon 9 was driven by the loss of the Soyuz, delays in the Ariane 6, and concerns about the Vega C, which has been out of service since a launch failure in December 2022.