??? BRUSSELS, Belgium ? The European Commission has reduced the number of satellites it expects to order this year for the Galileo navigation program to preserve the ability to modify the spacecraft design early in the system?s life, European government and industry officials said. The decision also permits the commission to save money at a time when the Galileo project threatens to burst through its budget limit.
??? The commission had asked the two final Galileo bidders ? consortia led by Astrium Satellites and OHB System ? to bid for 28 to 30 satellites, but recently has told them the maximum order will be for 22 spacecraft. The commission has asked both bidders to quote prices for eight and 16 satellites as well, in case it decides to divide the work between the two consortia.
??? Best-and-final offers are due in mid-November, with a decision scheduled for late December. The commission had budgeted 840 million euros ($1.24 billion) for the contract to build the Galileo satellites when it wanted 28 to 30 satellites. Officials said the bids they have received so far appear in line with that estimate.