Galileo outage highlights redundancy concerns

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 17 July 2019


Although still not in full operational mode, Galileo the European satellite positioning system has suffered a further setback and according to reports the latest incident is again connected to the system’s Precise Time Facility (PTF), but this time also involves the back up redundancy architecture.

The system experienced ‘technical issues’ on 11 July and according to the European GNSS Agency (GSA) the issue is still ongoing. A statement on the GSEA website reads:

A team of experts European GNSS Agency, industry, the European Space Agency and the European Commission is currently implementing and monitoring recovery actions for an incident related to the Galileo ground infrastructure that resulted in a temporary interruption of the Galileo Initial Services. The key objective is to restore the Galileo navigation and timing services for users as soon as possible.

On 12 July, Galileo initial navigation and timing services were interrupted temporarily. The Galileo Search and Rescue service remains operational.

Galileo is widely used by most of the commercially available receivers. Multi-constellation GNSS receivers will remain unaffected and compute position and timing using other constellations. Galileo-only receivers will not produce any navigation message.

As soon as the incident was declared, an Anomaly Review Board was convened and urgent recovery procedures were activated in the affected Galileo infrastructures. Operational teams are working on recovery actions 24/7 to restore the Galileo navigation and timing services as soon as possible.

Based on the results of the troubleshooting activities, several elements of the ground infrastructure were re-initiated. The progress is being closely monitored; it is too early to confirm an exact service recovery date.

The Galileo satellite navigation system launched its Initial Services in December 2016 and since then it has been providing high quality positioning, navigation and timing services to users worldwide. The aim of this Initial Services phase is to allow for the detection of technical issues before the system becomes fully operational.

It was precisely to deal with issues of this nature that the EU opted for a progressive roll-out of the Galileo system. The evolution and planned upgrade of the ground infrastructure will reinforce redundancy of the system towards reaching the full operations phase.

As soon as the outage occurred, the users were informed by the Galileo Service Centre through technical notices on 11 and 13 July , as well as a news item on the GSA website on 14 July . Users will be regularly updated, including on the navigation and timing service recovery date, through notifications and information.

The Galileo team would like to assure users that it is working hard to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

Several news agencies have reported that the problem related to the PTF was initially thought to involve only the Italian Control Centre but that the redundant back up facility in Germany was also experiencing the same difficulties. If true, this would highlight some major deficiencies in Galileo that could affect its usability as a means of marine navigation.

The Galileo system is intended as an alternative to the US GPS and Russian GLONAS systems and was considered as essential since the US and Russian systems are operated primarily for military purposes and can be ‘switched off’ at any time. Galileo has suffered from major cost and schedule overruns. Its initial €3Bn price tag has spiralled to three times that and delays have meant that the initial 2013 operational date has been exceeded by several years.

Galileo eventually began testing in December 2016 with a full deployment expected in 2020. While the satellites needed are in orbit the GSA status page shows 22 satellites as not usable due to the current service outage.

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