Europe's Galileo GNSS Malfunction Was 'Major Incident'

 - July 18, 2019, 12:46 PM

Europe’s Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) experienced what the GSA agency that operates it described as a “major incident” starting on July 12, which in the end lasted six days.

GSA said multi-constellation GNSS receivers were unaffected as they could compute position and timings using other constellations (such as the U.S. GPS system), but Galileo-only receivers were not able to produce a navigation message. The agency noted that the Galileo search and rescue service was not affected at any time, however.

An anomaly review board was “convened immediately” and “urgent recovery procedures were activated,” following which GSA said that, “based on the results of the troubleshooting activities, several elements of the ground infrastructure were re-initiated.”

However, it took until July 18 for the GSA to confirm that “Galileo initial services” had been restored, after which the agency said it would invoke “an independent inquiry board to identify the root causes.” GSA said it would then work with the EC, as Galileo program manager, “to draw lessons for the management of an operational system.”

Galileo’s so-called “initial services” have been available since December 2016 as a pilot phase, preceding the full operational phase, during which Galileo signals are used in combination with other satellite navigation systems that “allows for technical issues before the system becomes fully operational.”

GSA noted that commercial users were already experiencing signs of “recovery of the Galileo navigation and timing services.” but warned “some fluctuations” could still be seen until the service was completely back to normal—at which time it will issue another notice.

According to GSA, the “technical incident originated [in an] equipment malfunction in the Galileo ground infrastructure, affecting the calculation of time and orbit predictions.” It added that a team consisting of experts from GSA, the industry, the European Space Agency, and the European Commission “worked together 24/7 to address the incident,” monitoring the quality of Galileo services and attempting to correct the issue.

Throughout the episode, GSA’s Galileo Service Centre issued technical notices and information notices to users (NAGUs). The agency noted that “it was precisely to deal with issues of this nature that the EU opted for a progressive rollout of the Galileo system. The evolution and planned upgrade of the ground infrastructure will reinforce redundancy of the system towards reaching the operational phase.”