The EU’s satellite navigation system – Galileo is fully offline due to a technical incident related to its ground infrastructure.
The system’s issues began on July 11th, when simply a service degradation could be observed. As of July 13th, however, the system is completely offline.
“A technical incident in the Galileo ground infrastructure is affecting the functioning of the Galileo system, as a result of which there is a temporary interruption of some of the Galileo initial services. The navigation messages for all satellites are expired since 01:50 (UTC) on 12/07/2019, and according to the Service Definition Documents, users shall not use expired Galileo navigation messages,” the announcement read.
Furthermore, the issue was discovered, and the Prague-based European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GNSS) was working to restore service.
“The cause of the technical incident is identified, and recovery actions are implemented to ensure that the nominal service is resumed as soon as possible while safeguarding quality of the services.”
The issue didn’t affect the Galileo Search and Rescue (SAR) service, only the initial navigation and timing services.
“The SAR service – used for locating and helping people in distress situations for example at sea or mountains – is unaffected and remains operational.”
Galileo is the world’s fourth geo-location satellite system, after ones created by the U.S, Russia and China, and has been pitched by the EU as a more accurate alternative to GPS. The EU has poured some €10 billion into the system, which has operated on a trial basis since late 2016 and is set to be fully operational by the mid-2020s with 30 satellites in orbit.
As of July 12th all satellites are listed as offline and as of mid-day on July 15th nothing has changed.
There are two satellites that are being tested (and have been for a while) and every other is offline.
The system consists of 22 operational satellites, with two more in testing and 12 yet to launch, and is scheduled to be fully operational by 2020.
Last year, the US FCC announced that US phones would be allowed to connect to Galileo for more accurate timing and location reliability. However, an outage of this scale and length is embarrassing, especially since the EU is trying to decrease its reliance on foreign satellite navigation systems.
Currently, only a limited number of consumer mobile phones are equipped to pick up Galileo’s signal. In the meantime, GPS is used to augment Galileo and spot problems with the new system, GNSS said.
The organization is yet to offer any more details on the cause of the outage. But according to industry publication Inside GNSS, a Precise Timing Facility located in Italy is to blame for the problems. This facility provides system time data to the Galileo satellites.
Phones that can connect to Galileo would most likely not notice any disruption in service, as they will automatically connect to the GPS system while the EU one is in outage.
It is surprising that Russia hasn’t yet been blamed for somehow jamming the system, but it may simply be a matter of time to construct a semi-credibly scenario, backed by, as usual, no evidence whatsoever.
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