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Space boss suspended for satellite project gaffe


The chief executive of a leading German space company was suspended on 17 January for allegedly criticizing the European satellite-navigation system Galileo, which the company is helping to build. (BBC, Telegraph)

In a statement, OHB-System, of Bremen, said it saw “no alternative” to removing Berry Smutny “in order to effectively avert any further damage to the company”. Cables from the US Embassy in Berlin, obtained by WikiLeaks and publicized in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, claim that Smutny said the Galileo project is a “stupid idea” and a “waste of money”. Smutny denies saying this, telling Aftenposten that he did meet US officials for lunch but insists that he is a supporter of the project.

Galileo is a multi-billion-euro venture to build a European version of the US Global Positioning System. OHB System AG is building 14 satellites out of a total of 30 that will eventually be in orbit. The company expects to deliver the first satellite in July 2012 and the last one in March 2014. But the project, which began a decade ago, has run into difficulties including delays, several near-cancellations and is over-budget. (See Nature story about Galileo’s progress here.)

UPDATE: “Europe will have to spend a further 1.9bn euros (£1.6bn) to complete its Galileo satellite-navigation system … What should have cost European taxpayers no more than 1.8bn euros is now set to cost them in excess of 5bn euros.” (BBC)

Image credit: Poppy via wikipedia under Creative Commons.


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