OHB Systems has reinforced its position as the dominant satellite industrial player in the Galileo system, securing a deal to build eight more of the precision navigation and timing satellites after having already beaten out Astrium once for the initial batch of 14 spacecraft.

But even as Europe works on putting in place the basic Galileo constellation, discussions are starting on how to evolve the system. Initial discussions are starting now to determine what technology options may exist, says the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Galileo program director, Didier Faivre. Both power increases and reducing costs are issues that will be looked at. A technology plan may be ready by year’s end.

But the eight satellites put on contract with OHB, under a €255 million ($334 million) deal, are identical to the 14 full-operational capability spacecraft ordered from the company more than two years ago. The satellite award is only one of three signed on Feb. 3 for the Galileo full-operational capability (FOC). Arianespace received a contract to secure up to three Ariane 5 launches (the down payment was for €30 million) and Astrium received a €30 million contract for the dispenser to allow the Ariane 5 to deploy four Galileo spacecraft; the initial batch is to be launched in pairs on Soyuz rockets.

The satellite decision is a setback for Astrium, which was seen as having the edge in part because of the European Commission’s plan to maintain a dual-sourcing capacity. Industry officials felt that made it almost impossible for OHB to again trounce its industrial nemesis. However, Astrium, through its Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. unit, is still winning work on the OHB program.

Maintaining a competitive playing field helped keep costs down, according to the European Commissioner for enterprise, Antonio Tajani. Astrium provided a competitive bid, he adds. ESA believes the strength of the Astrium bid indicates the company will be positioned to bid on a future round, expected around 2014. The two bids were “very close,” Faivre says.

The full-operational capability satellites underwent their critical design review in December and now the integration phase is under way, says OHB Technologies chairman and CEO Marco Fuchs.

Tajani also notes that since a midterm review last year of Galileo costs, the program cost estimates have come down to €1.4 billion-€1.5 billion from €1.9 billion to complete the full operational capability.

Galileo is to be in service starting in 2014. Two more in-orbit verification spacecraft are to be launched this year — the slots are already secured — with the first FOC spacecraft to follow in 2013 on Soyuz launchers. The first Ariane 5 launch is due in late 2014 and the last of the 22 FOC satellites now on order is due for launch in 2015.

The move to also use the Ariane 5 was a strategic choice to have a second launcher, Faivre. It gives ESA enhanced “flexibility” to deploy, he notes.

The launcher deal brings the Ariane 5 orderbook to 25 launches, says Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall.