[Satellite News 02-14-11] Rene Oosterlinck was the European Space Agency
’s (ESA) first full-time director of the Galileo program, serving from early 2008 through the end of 2010. Oosterlinck was tasked not only to manage the development of the complex program but also control costs, and the program now is projected to cost more than 5.3 billion euros ($7.13 billion) to complete.
Oosterlinck spoke with Satellite News
about the challenges he has faced over the last three years and where Europe’s most talked about space program goes next.
Satellite News: What did you learn during your experience as Galileo director?
Oosterlinck: One of the key things I learned is that signed agreements will only work if there is trust and respect. The other important thing I learned is the importance of human relations. In January 2009, we faced a serious problem for the financing of the In-orbit Validation (IOV) phase. I succeeded in finding a solution thanks to the confidence I had in some individuals within the EC (European Commission) that followed through on their promises. If these people had not worked hard and put pressure on their management, the IOV phase would have cost at least 80 million euros ($108.4 million) more. My advice to my successor went in that direction — success in this program is only possible when the EC and ESA work hand in hand.
Satellite News: What were the difficulties in financing Galileo’s IOV?Oosterlinck
: The IOV phase was a joint ESA and EU program managed under ESA rules, but a significant change occurred in the management structure of the Galileo program at the end 2007 when the European Union (EU) decided that the Galileo program would be funded exclusively by public funds.
On the one hand, the EC would become program manager, and ESA would be responsible for the implementation of the entire Galileo project. This included, moreover, a system prime role. The EC had no experience in program management, and ESA never played fully the role of system prime. In addition, since the FOC (full operational capability) would be financed exclusively by the EC, that part of the Galileo program had to follow the rules of the EC, in particular with respect to procurement and finance. This was not only new for ESA but also for the EC.
The major challenge was to set-up the teams in both organizations and to establish mutual trust and respect. It was also essential to start immediately the adaptation of the procurement process to the needs of the Galileo FOC phase. This was not easy in the beginning.