Galileo Outage Update: Service failure poses serious questions

Redundancy in Galileo ground facilities may not have been enough to prevent worst-ever GNSS failure. 

A new source has told Inside GNSS that the ongoing Galileo outage “…has to do with the Precise Time Facility (PTF), a redundant facility present in both Italian and German control centers.” This is the second source close to the program who has identified the PTF as the focus of the incident. Our source adds, “Incidentally, the redundancy apparently did not work.” So, the suggestion is that both PTFs, at two separate European locations, have failed. And, our source adds, “Take into account that the two major outages in the last two years were also caused by problems in the PTF. There are major architectural problems within the GMS [Galileo Mission Segment] under Thales Alenia Space…responsibility.”

(Requests for comment from Galileo officials have gone unanswered since the outage began last Friday.)

We are receiving communications from both users and sources within the Galileo program. All want to be as fair as possible with it. Galileo is a strategic asset for Europe. It is nearing completion and up to now generally seen as a success, in spite of well-documented delays, cost overruns and other challenges. A new technical failure causing a six-days-and-running outage is obviously a huge concern, but there is also unease raised by the way this new crisis is being handled.

Voices are now calling for an immediate “change of mindset.” Some feel that the program “has not yet fully understood what providing a critical service means.” One source has told us today, “When you provide this kind of service you are supposed to struggle to the death and at all costs to guarantee availability and continuity first, and performance immediately thereafter. This is not the present mentality.”

“If you engage in Galileo, you should feel like you’re on military duty. It is not surprising that GPS, GLONASS and BeiDou are all operated by military organizations. There is still hope for Galileo, but some drastic changes need to happen.”