EU transportation ministers have approved the use of billions of euros in public funds to finance the ailing satellite-navigation system Galileo.
EU officials have high hopes for Galileo
Ministers on Friday gave the green-light to plans by the European Commission after the collapse of talks last month to undertake the ambitious project in partnership with private industry.
"We need the expertise in this technology and we need the jobs which the sector will generate," said German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, whose country is current president of the EU.
All 27 ministers approved the plan, which will require an initial outlay of 2.4 billion euros ($3.2 billion) of public money towards the project's total cost of about 4 billion euros.
This would come on top of the 1.3 billion euros national governments have already committed to Galileo, seen as Europe's answer to the US-operated global positioning system GPS.
GPS is already used in millions of navigation systems in cars
Amid internal bickering, the eight companies from five countries involved in Galileo had missed a May 10 deadline to decide how to share work on the project.
After the initial investment, private industry will be tasked with operating the system and new bids will be called for operation and maintenance of satellites, only one of which is in orbit.
There were originally to be 30 satellites in place by 2010, but the timeline for Galileo to be fully operational was moved to 2012 due to delays inside the industry consortium.
The system is to be used for civilian purposes only, monitoring natural disasters, air and sea rescue services and for a range of commercial uses.
Can Galileo still catch up with other programs?
EU officials had warned that the bloc could lose out in the international competition for global space technology as the US, Russia, China and Japan are busy building and improving their satellite navigation technology.
The GPS system -- run by the US Defense Department -- is offered free to businesses worldwide, while Galileo plans to charge users.
Galileo's original consortium included the Franco-German aerospace consortium EADS, France's Thales and Alcatel-Lucent, British company Inmarsat, Italy's Finmeccanica, AENA and Hispasat of Spain and a German group with Deutsche Telekom and the German Aerospace Center.
The EU hopes that Galileo will generate at least 150,000 jobs and bring a return of investments of up to 9 billion euros, making it the continent's most lucrative infrastructure project.
China, Israel, the US, Ukraine, India, Morocco and South Korea have also agreed to invest in Galileo.