back to article Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality

The European Space Agency's (ESA's) embarrassment at having two of its Galileo satnav birds land in the wrong orbit has been blamed on bad programming of the Soyuz craft that hauled the satellites aloft. Russia's Izviestia reports that an investigation of the incident found that the Soyuz's first stage did all that was asked …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smack on the wrist then!

    Sounds like someone's due for an extended holiday down the salt mines!

    1. MondoMan

      Re: Smack on the wrist then!

      More like a "volunteer vacation" crossing the border into south-eastern Ukraine...

      1. Matt 21

        Re: Smack on the wrist then!

        Surly their reply to the question "How did the programming go wrong", will be "well, it's a kind of magic"..

        Mind you they must be under pressure at the moment. Perhaps they'll look to fat bottomed girls, after all, if they can make the rocking world go round what can they do for a satellite?

        So, there you go, proof positive that El Reg headline writers have more skill than me!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The ESA's yet to comment publicly on the allegation, but does yesterday gave an update "


  3. MacroRodent Silver badge

    the bug

    Wonder what it was that time? Probably not feet vs metres confusion, like in the missed NASA Mars probe, since both the ESA and Russia are thoroughly metric.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: the bug

      I read a comment yesterday (possibly here?) saying that from the orbit it looked like the final stage had burned perfectly, but in the wrong direction, which is a plausible error to make.

      The trouble is, to get back into the correct orbit they're now going to need twice the delta-v of the final stage, or some fancy orbit shenanigans.

  4. frank ly

    Latest satellite status message

    So you think you can launch me and not put me high

    So you think you can launch me and not let me fly

    Oh Soyuz - can't do this to me Soyuz

    Just gotta get up - just gotta get right up from here

    1. Michael Hoffmann

      Re: Latest satellite status message

      And I'm off to see Queen with their substitute flamboyant singer Adam Lambert tonight.

      Thank you for this wonderful bit of synchronicity! :-D

      1. psychonaut

        Re: Latest satellite status message

        Uh no that was the Police. Enjoy Queen though

        1. A Known Coward

          Re: Latest satellite status message

          Uh no that was Queen.

          1. Hero Protagonist

            Re: Latest satellite status message


            Methinks he was riffing on the "synchronicity" comment

  5. John Tserkezis

    Did the bird programmers offshore their jobs to India while they were busy getting beers?

    1. iRadiate

      Oh dear. Another prick.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Did you country flung something at Mars yet?

      Na mate. If they did, it would have gone to Mars. So how many premature ejaculations your country has got?

  6. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Russian sanctions against European sanctions about Ukraine

    "Nice satellites you've got there, tovarishch. Would be a shame if they ended up in the wrong orbit, nyeht!"

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Russian sanctions against European sanctions about Ukraine

      Certainly a good one for the Tin Foil Hat users.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Russian sanctions against European sanctions about Ukraine

      This is where I'd put my money. It had already crossed my mind that sabotage was involved what with the US being so vocally vehemently opposed to the Galileo project and Russia being direct competitors to Europe with their present Glonass upgrade programme. The ESA brought the Galileo completion date forward just to beat Russia (and others) to the lion's share of the predicated billions from commercial users of the more accurate location systems.

      The fact that Russia and Europe are on the brink of war just makes it stranger still that the ESA went ahead with using Soyuz instead of Ariane.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Russian sanctions against European sanctions about Ukraine

        Anyway it's a very stupid decision by ESA to use Russian rockets to lift this kind of very valuable satellites instead of its own Ariane.

        And Putin is the type og guy who can play any dirty trick if he sees any advantage. Delaying Galileo deployment can be one.

        Remember positioning systems has not only a commercial value....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad code, or bad setup?

    Was it programmed incorrectly, or configured incorrectly? There's a difference, and I'd hate to see programmers unfairly take the blame.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I don't think that the problem is there

      I think that whatever the cause between the two does not matter.

      What does matter is that there was insufficient oversight to detect and correct the problem.

      Okay, this is rocket science, but we're not talking about an exploded rocket, we're talking about a string of errors that are purely due to bureaucratic incompetence. That somebody made a mistake is understandable, that nobody caught the mistake and flagged it for correction is not. One does not just go and upload flight parameters for a multi-million-dollar satellite without double-checking, then triple-checking said parameters. And the checking is not supposed to be done by the same person !

      Come on, ESA, you've done better than this already. Call SES if you need some pointers on how to manage a fleet of satellites - they've been doing it right for more than a decade now.

    2. FlatSpot

      Re: Bad code, or bad setup?

      Sounds like it was lemming programming, rather than validating the config inputs against what was expected to happen and what it was doing was correct.

      If the burn was the wrong way, why not an if on burn my altitude is going down/then stop the burn and ask for help/else burn on....

    3. ian 22

      Re: Bad code, or bad setup?

      Nah, neither. The computer fooked up.

      Bloody lazy computers, sit on their arses all day eating chips and reading trashy computer-matched romances.

      At least that's what we used to tell customers.

  8. dotdavid


    The Soyuz must use the same kind of sat-nav that Russian soldiers seem to use while patrolling the border with Ukraine.

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      Re: Soyuz

      Nah, I'd trot out a variant of BR's favourite excuse, and ascribe it to the wrong sort of vodka.

  9. Rizzla

    Sanctions limited coding?

    Of course it could be that under sanctions countermeasures, Russia is only allowed to program within a smaller accuracy limit, so the target distance could fall within the plus - or in this case minus - tolerance of the project. It's about a 10% variance so still OK for Government work.........

  10. Mike Flugennock

    any way the wind blows...!

    Jeez, you guys -- how far can you stretch a pop culture reference before it snaps?

    I'd say the initial discovery of the bug caused more than a few sheer heart attacks.

  11. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    Payload error?

    Perhaps they just got the schedule wrong: the Gallileo satellites are now in a spy satellite orbit, and the two super-secret spy satellites that should have been sent up are languishing on the ground.

  12. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Must have been an emotional moment


    1. Down not across Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Must have been an emotional moment

      Ok. Have an upvote for the Star Wreck reference.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was it programmed wrong or did the request not say what direction the orbit should be? If it didn't say what direction, was it really programmed wrong?

  14. Colin Miller


    Can't the French Ariane rockets get high enough to launch Galileo?

  15. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    "It looks like...'re trying to configure the number 3 attitude adjustment reactor motor subsystem.

    Would you like some help with that?"

    My phone tried to autocorrect 54 to 45 last week (Seriously. No, I don't understand it either.) so perhaps that's what happened.

  16. hoola Silver badge

    Not only Russian techies....

    I recall that when Hubble was launched, it was "short sighted" due to an incorrect calculation. NASA then had to do a repair to make it usable.

    These can happen to anyone, it was just that the NASA woopsie was in-house. Of course back then the Shuttle was still operational so they could go and fix it. If it happened now (James Webb Space Telescope beware) then NASA woudl be equally stuffed.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In space no-one can hear you scream "NYET!!!"

    Sounds like someone frelled up the software good.

    Wonder if it was the same one that ruined the MCO by fouling up the conversion between metric and imperial ?

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