Galileo Satellite Navigation System Suffers Major Outage

Galileo satellite navigation system. Credit: ESA

Disruption means receivers are not picking up usable signals ‘until futher notice’, reportedly due to a fault at a ground station in Italy

The European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation system is suffering an ongoing outage that has effectively taken the entire system offline since early on Friday morning.

The system is offline until further notice, said the European GNSS Agency (GSA) in a notification sent out at 1:50 Central European Time on Friday.

The problem is down to a fault at a Precise Timing Facility (PTF) in Fucino, Italy, specialist satellite navigation publication Inside GNSS reported, citing unnamed sources.

A European spacecraft ground station has been maintained in Fucino since the 1960s.

networks, outage

Precise Timing Facilities generate the reference time against which Galileo’s clocks are calibrated, and are part of the complex ground infrastructure that maintains the system.

Galileo’s function that picks up distress beacon messages for search and rescue operations is reportedly unaffected by the outage.

“Experts are working to restore the situation as soon as possible,” the GSA said.  “An Anomaly Review Board has been immediately set up to analyse the exact root cause and to implement recovery actions.”

The outage means that Galileo receivers are not picking up usable position and timing information, and must fall back on systems including the US’ GPS, Russia’s Glonass and China’s Beidou.

Pilot phase

The system, which went live in December 2016, is in a pilot phase until next year, meaning that it is not currently intended for use with critical applications.

However, the outage is an embarrassment for the EU, which has spent billions on the system, arguing in part that it offers an additional level of reliability.

Galileo is also said to be more accurate than rival systems.

The UK has contributed more than £1 billion to the project, but its continued involvement with Galileo is in question following the vote to leave the European Union.

In August of last year Prime Minister Theresa May said £92m had been set aside to investigate possible Galileo alternatives.

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