It's been almost a year since it officially became a publically financed project, but we finally have confirmation this week of funding for the Galileo satellite project the EU intends to launch as an alternative to GPS.

The European Parliament has approved €2.4 billion (£1.9 billion) of public money to fund the space program after several private companies withdrew last year amid accusations of mismanagement from both sides.

Important project

German MEP Angelika Niebler reaffirmed the value of a project many have already dismissed. Speaking to the parliament, she said: "We are giving the go-ahead to one of the most important projects in the EU. This is a technology that we need."

Naysayers have long been concerned at how exactly Galileo can compete with the US GPS system, which is already operational and is due for an accuracy upgrade. Further reducing the commercial appeal to private investors is the fact that GPS is free to use.

Declaration of independence

Nevertheless, the EU has decided to press ahead with the network of 30 satellites, motivated mainly by a desire for a sat nav system that's not at risk should the Americans decide to restrict GPS access in future.

Now that funding is guaranteed, the next step for Galileo is a second experimental satellite that will launch this weekend with a mission to test key technologies.

The full network is slated for a 2013 switch-on, although there are clearly plenty of obstacles to negotiate before Europe gets satnav independence.