Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

EU throws veil of silence over week-long Galileo satellite outage

Multibillion-euro project is intended to give Europe an independent and more accurate alternative to GPS

The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency informed on July 14, 2019 that some 22 satellites of global navigation satellite system Galileo are listed as 'Not Usable' due to 'Service Outage'. EPA/PIERRE CARRIL
The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency informed on July 14, 2019 that some 22 satellites of global navigation satellite system Galileo are listed as 'Not Usable' due to 'Service Outage'. EPA/PIERRE CARRIL

Galileo, a multibillion-euro satellite navigation system that was launched by the EU in 2016, has been down for a week and the officials working on the project say they are unable to provide the reason why.

The Galileo constellation, a 10 billion investment aimed at giving Europe an independent and more accurate alternative to the US Global Position System (GPS), has been offline after experiencing technical issues last Thursday, and no timeline has been given to what it will come back online.

A team of experts including the Paris-based European Space Agency and the European Commission are investigating “recovery actions”, with an aim at restoring the navigation system and its timing services for users as soon as possible.

“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,” they said in a statement on Wednesday.

Based on the results of the troubleshooting activities, it was too early to confirm an exact service recovery date, the team said.

A EU Commission official said a full report would only be issued once the problem is resolved, as there are fears that offering information prematurely could leave the navigation system vulnerable to hackers.

Since its launch in December 2016, Galileo has had a few technical failures. In early 2017, it was reported that six of the passive hydrogen masers and three of the rubidium atomic clocks had failed in the satellites, meaning that four of them were without working clocks.

As of July 2018, 26 of the planned 30 active satellites are in orbit. The complete 30 satellite system, comprising 24 in operation and six active spares, is expected next year.

The system has historically caused tension with the US, because Europe still uses its GPS system and in the past, US officials have said Galileo may pose a security threat as it could be exploited by a hostile power during war.

Updated: July 18, 2019 04:12 PM

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