First of all a very happy and prosperous 2010 to all of you!
In 2009 saw very little concrete progress within the Galileo project. Behind the scenes a lot has happened, e.g., the cooperation between the EU and ESA has been improved and a lot of progress was made in the negotiations for the full orbit constellation (FOC) contracts. However, from a (scientific) user point of view this is not very concrete progress at all.
A significant issue with the Galileo project is the lack of an open communication principle. In 2009 I was really positively surprised about how open the GPS system has been regarding the issues with SVN-49. This is quite different from the way how the Galileo project is treating things. This is very surprising and even more so if one considers that GPS is still very much a military system whereas Galileo is a civil system. Thus one would expect much more open communications from Galileo!!
Secondly, also the data policy from the Galileo project is not really transparent. Since 2005 GIOVE-A has been in orbit and ESA has been gathering data from this satellite, and its brother GIOVE-B, using a network of 13 Galileo Experimental Sensor Stations (GESS). In principle this data is available to all ESA "trusted users", a status one can apply for on the ESA GIOVE web site. However, I know several institutes that have applied but never received this status. This is really disappointing, especially since a open data policy would most likely lead to much more interest, and consequently investigations and progress, from the scientific community. The currently employed "closed data policy" is very likely more harmful then helpful for the project. Several world leading scientist who would be interested in studying the Galileo, or rather GIOVE, data do not have access to the data. In this sense the Galileo project is very similiar to the Chinese COMPASS project.
So this brings us to the status of the Galileo IOV phase. In this phase 4 satellites will be launched in two launches. Both launches will be from Kourou using the the Russian Soyuz launcher. The four IOV satellites should, in principle be very similar to the final Galileo satellites. In Summer 2009 the IOV schedule foresaw that launch 1 would take place around September 2010 and launch 2 around February 2011. However, ever since the schedule has been slipping. Of course slipping schedules are quite normal in the space business but the lack of communications around it in the case of the Galileo project are untypical and make people wonder about the reasons for the delays. The latest rumours I have heard, and so far these rumours have always been true, is that launch 1 for the Galielo IOV is now scheduled for May 2011. The reason(s) for this (huge!) delay are completely unclear. But, we can speculate a bit about them....
Interesting is that in the FOC negotiations it seems that for building the satellites the consortium around OHB now seems to be winning against the "favourite" EADS consortium. The OHB consortium includes Surrey Satelite Technology Ltd which was responsible for the very successful GIOVE-A satellite. GIOVE-A was build on-time and within budget. And that was a truley great performance as time was the most critical factor in that case. The performance of EADS in building GIOVE-B was quite in constrast to the this with very significant delays and huge cost overruns. So if we put 1 and 1 together and start speculating a bit, it could very well be that the EU and ESA are a bit disappointed with the EADS performance both from GIOVE-B as well as now for the IOV satellites and are thus now favouring the OHB consortium for the FOC phase. It can also be just "politics" but the GIOVE-B and IOV satellites projects are certainly not one of the "best" we have seen. So there is some room for speculation here.....
Of course, in case the OHB consortium wins this will lead to a very inhomogeneous Galileo satellite constellation as the OHB satellites will most likely be quite different from the EADS IOV satellites. Also most likely the FOC constellation will be build in different phase with different generations of satellites. So when Galileo reaches FOC at least 3 different types of satellite will be in orbit.
In any case these are interesting times but before we see any real Galileo satellites in orbit my bet is that we will have to wait until 2011. So for 2010 the highlights we may expect will come from GPS and GLONASS. The GPS system is going to launch its, long overdue, first Block IIF satellite (currently scheduled for May) whereas the GLONASS system is going to launch its first GLONASS-K satellite (scheduled for the end of 2010).
Meanwhile I hope the Galileo project will become a bit more open both in its communication policy and, even more importantly, in its data policy.