#Galileo – Prolonged outage of Europe’s GPS raises concern

| July 16, 2019

According to the European Global Navigation Satellites System service centre, Galileo, the EU’s satellite navigation system, is currently affected by a technical incident related to its ground infrastructure. 
The outage, which started on Friday (12 July) is described by the EU’s agency as a  ‘temporary interruption of the Galileo initial navigation and timing services, with the exception of the Galileo Search and Rescue (SAR) service’ – used for locating and helping people in distress situations, for example at sea or in the mountains.

The agency emphasizes that Galileo is still in its “pilot” phase preceding the ‘full operational services’ phase. Nevertheless, the outage is embarrassing for Europe’s system. 

Experts are working to restore the situation as soon as possible. An ‘Anomaly Review Board’ has been immediately set up to analyze the exact root cause and to implement recovery actions. And it is been reported that the agency are working 24/7 to repair the system. 

Users of GPS will be able to make use of other systems, such as the non-civilian US GPS system or Russian GLONASS signals, but one of the main motivations behind Galileo was the objective of Europe being independent of these other systems, a system the GNSS website describes as “a new, reliable alternative that, unlike these other programmes, remains under civilian control”.

As satellite positioning has become an essential service that we often take for granted. The GNSS (Global Satellite Agency) website stated: “Just think what would happen if GNSS signals were suddenly switched off. Truck and taxi drivers, ship and aircraft crews and millions of people around the world would suddenly be lost.

“Furthermore, financial and communication activities, public utilities, security and humanitarian operations and emergency services would all come to a standstill. In other words, as the use of satellite-based navigation systems continues to expand, the implications of a potential signal failure become even greater.”

While Galileo always intended to be additional to the other GNSS systems, to minimize these risks, it appears that the European system is the weakest link. 

Catherine Feore

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