Definitely Russian or Chinese hacking
Maybe even American hacking
Europe's constellation of positioning satellites is still offline, at time of writing, after six or so days, prompting eggheads to dig into what exactly is going on. The upshot? Galileo is doing a literal fandango in the sky, tracking far off where it should be and offering an increasingly inaccurate positioning signal to the …
Maybe not hacking as such. There's been several times over the years when the GPS systems were set to do this intentionally. The cryptographic signal for military use was still dead on but the rest, not so much with maybe a mile (max) skewing.
Maybe someone leaned on the switch and someday we'll see a "Who Me" article on it.
Has anyone checked to see if it's only giving accurate position for UK locations?
I am in UK, I just checked and can't see any Galileo satellites at all. Not even with binoculars. Then again at my age, the old peepers not what they were. But srsly no there are no Galileos.
"Thi [sic] is is what happens when you tel [sic] the UK they can no longer be a part of a program they have contributed a lot to after Brexit!"
People keep telling me that Leave means Leave, but for some reason they don't say "...except the bits we want to remain, but with none of the downsides"
So your view is that for the divorce bill, the UK should stump up for its share of the debts, plus committed spending, plus spending for the *next* budget cycle, but no share of the assets that it paid to build up over the past decade?
The real problem is that Galileo isn’t actually an asset. What is it worth? The original idea was that it could run a Commercial Service. But the EU has now agreed that it will have to “sell” this to companies for zero cost (as they have told it they won’t pay), and charge EU organisations to use it who won’t be able to refuse. Any company in the world gets to use the non-commercial service for free - your iPhone gets to use it whether you are British, French or Chinese.
“Missing out on lucrative Galileo contracts” is the Broken Window fallacy writ large (look it up). It is no benefit to the UK to pay subscription payments into the EU that then pay our companies to do work with no actual value to customers. It’s just paying very smart engineers to move bricks from one pile on Earth to another in orbit.
No, it isn’t.
Firstly, we are dependent on US GPS, not Galileo. For a history of such systems, you need look no further than Glonass. Your smartphone can and does use it, it’s a parallel system to GPS, nobody outside of specialists knows it is there, and it is rapidly degrading to uselessness because it isn’t economically maintainable.
It’s more like saying the U.K. doesn’t need its nuclear defence to be Trident submarines. Trident is primarily a defence against overwhelming first-strike, otherwise land-based would be cheaper and more effective. And it is equipped with US-made missiles, so it isn’t independent anyway.
In just the same way, Galileo signal design has to be exactly compatible with the US system, and it’s clocks need a special interface to be synchronised to US GPS, otherwise Galileo stops working immediately. In any political scenario where the US withdrew its cooperation over GPS, Galileo would simply be blocked. This is a bureaucratic fantasy of independence not backed by technical realities.
Also, GPS/Galileo is obsolescent tech. Next gen tech, already at pre-commercial, goes back to dead-reckoning using chip-scale atomic clocks and gyroscopes within the user device. It has already been demonstrated in a “ruggedized satnav brick” form factor, but doesn’t fit in a smartphone yet. No satellites required. Probably about 5+ years to commercial launch, but spending 10bn to develop a re-tread system that only makes economic sense if it is amortised over the next thirty years, is not a good use of anybody’s money.
And lastly, if you are depending on Brussels to intervene militarily in a Ukraine-style conflict, that isn’t going to happen. Agreed it is a problem that a Trumpster US may no longer stand behind East Germany. In which case, I’m afraid god help them. And if they won’t stand behind Western Europe, then god help us all. But in neither case does spending 10bn on a “road to nowhere” help anyone.
Checking the list of ESA missions here, they're successful in over 90% of their missions, which is at least on par with any other space program. Better than some (*coff* post-Soviet Russia *coff*).
The only big fuck ups that they've had off the top of my head were Schiaparelli, (which was technically supposed to just be a test, but was still an embarrassing fuckup), and Beagle 2, although that was a UK project, the ESA part of it (Mars Express) is still working fine.
Apparently the original GPS system had a switch to turn Einstein on or off, the military customers being dubious about it. And sure enough, you need to account for the relativistic effects. Fanciful though that may seem now, back then there was far less experimental confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity. Even so it was probably undue paranoia to doubt the need for the correction...
I'd be surprised if anyone else running a GNSS had forgotten about that.
If different satellites get different incorrect time "corrections", the error is about time difference times speed of light, so about 2 microseconds would explain it.
If all the satellites the the identical incorrect time "corrections", the error is about time difference times speed of satellite.
Six days and counting? Crumbs.
Does anyone know what scope there is for this to become a permanent problem? Can the clocks get so far off from where they're supposed to be that it can cause an unrecoverable degradation?
Seems unlikely to me, but it's hard to explain why it's taken so long to rectify the problem. Of course something might have broken and they simply haven't got a spare, which would be innocent enough but extremely careless.
"Can the clocks get so far off from where they're supposed to be that it can cause an unrecoverable degradation?"
No. While we don't usually think of it in that way, all clocks are simply counters - a pendulum clock counts the number of times the pendulum has swung, a quartz clock counts the number of electrical oscillations in a crystal, an atomic clock counts the number of oscillations in an electromagnetic wave. There's no measure of time actually inherent to any clock, all they do is count how many oscillations have happened since some arbitrary point.
In an everyday clock, that count is tied to some sort of human-readable display, and ideally that display can be adjusted if for some reason it ends up being inaccurate. But with an atomic clock, there isn't generally any display of "time", all it will do is tell you how many counts there have been since it was told to start counting. If you tell it to start counting from zero again, it will simply do so. So there's really no such thing as it's time being off from where it's supposed to be, because it doesn't know anything about time at all. All it's doing is counting oscillations, and no matter how far away from the expected count it might be it will never stop working or somehow become unrecoverable because as far as the clock is concerned such things don't have any meaning.
It's also important to consider that there are essentially two ways for a clock to be wrong - either the starting point is not what was expected, or the oscillations occur at a different rate than expected. The latter is the problem with almost all normal clocks - a pendulum doesn't always swing exactly once per second, so after an hour it may only have counted 3550 swings instead of the 3600 it should have. That can be fixed by just nudging it forward a bit occasionally, ie. resetting the start point. But with an atomic clock, it's essentially impossible for that to be a problem. The oscillations being counted are tied to atomic transitions that only radiate with very specific frequencies. Barring a fundamental change to the laws of physics, either the clock is counting at the correct rate (to within about 1 in 10^-15) or it's not counting at all; it can't slow down or drift around in the way a pendulum clock might. So essentially the only way for an atomic clock to be wrong is if the starting point of the counting is wrong.
Which brings us back to Galileo. Keeping a network of atomic clocks synchronised means making sure they're all told to start counting at the same time. And if that gets screwed up somehow, the clocks could all be functioning perfectly, but be completely useless since if one says "I've counted 10 billion oscillations" and another says "I've counted 100 billion", without knowing when either of them actually started counting it's all entirely meaningless. From the little information we have, it sounds like the problem is something along these lines. The clocks are probably all fine, but the ground station has somehow screwed up the synchronisation so the counts aren't all starting at the same time.
Of course, that's all talking about the actual clocks themselves, there could be all kinds of problems in the electronics and programming surrounding them. But given that there are multiple different systems built by different manufacturers involved, it seems very unlikely that they would all suddenly develop similar faults at the same time despite having worked fine until now. Given what we know of the nature of the issue, it's much more likely to be a problem in the wider network than anything specific to the actual clocks.
"it can't slow down or drift around in the way a pendulum clock "
An excellent summary sir. Although I'd like to add a caveat to the above, "in terms of it's own frame of reference". After all, that's why they need to take into General Relativity into account when calculating the "time" from the counter results from the point of view of the "stationary" observer :-)
Having said that, I would suggest that what you are describing as an atomic clock is actually little more than the pendulum and maybe the escapement. The rest of the gubbins that does stuff to make the counter result useful, when added to the atomic counter bit is arguably when it becomes a clock.
The problem isn't the clock. It's Einstein, and the way that mass is not evenly distributed throughout the Earth. American GPS clocks have to be reset every day. Because they fly over the surface of the earth, and the uneven nature of mass distribution affects the special- and general-relativistic slowing of the on-board clocks. It's just not predictable, no matter how well Einstein's theories have been confirmed. Without a reset daily, GPS'es go out, way out.
An operator error would be somebody pressed the wrong key or miscalculated the delta-v or punched in the wrong burn time on the engine.
A fundamental design problem is a problem that simply cannot be fixed. Somewhere along the line that your fuel of choice produce a chamber temperature which is borderline of what you can handle and sometimes it doesn't work. Meaning you have to either add active cooling and thus adding too much weight or change fuel, but that would mean loosing specific impulse so thus reducing the weight limit. Which means you have to basically start over.
They are not claiming this is an act of god, it is a design problem, but can probably be solved with a pound's worth of insulation.
It looks like the sats might be sending bad ephemeris. GPS systems send a pulse out like "at the sound of the tone it will be "xx:xx:xx.0000000000". They also send out rough position info on all the other sats which allows a receiver to get a rough position. Once it has a rough position, then it uses speed of light to set its clock better and use that to gauge the difference between each sat and itself. It then will use the ephemeris data to get a precise idea of where the sat is and how fast its moving. That data includes atmosphere model hints as well as calculations for orbital wobble. For those who want to play at home, they are something like 12th order 3d polar coordinate polynomials. They include factors that change the wobble because of things like the Moons gravity as well as factors for Saturn and Jupiter. If there is a problem with the wobble model or the atmosphere model, these sorts of problems will show up.
More importantly, the fat bloke would have a good selection of hammers to determine the level of adjustment.
Personally, I think the problem is caused by Russia/China/Norks/Iranian hackers/ GCHQ/Aliens or US sanctions, of course it could be a result of the failure to use the correct mathematical units, they use that old fashioned metric system instead of the superior Reg units system.
"No, it's the weird space/time warping effects from the drive of a passing alien interstellar spaceship."
Is that the one that made Saturns rings look like mating worms before the baby elephants on parachutes invaded?
... with the transmitters on the ground, if one breaks you can send a fat bloke in a van, no need for rocket science.
That Nedry guy? He's very good at tying up communications, but lousy at smuggling out frozen embryos.
The trick is not to send embryos frozen but in ambient temperature media. A bit of a problem since fertilised eggs/embryos will arrest and not develop whilst in it so it is less ideal. But transporting 37C media in a CO2 incubator is rather difficult. But not entirely impossible. Trucks exist with power sockets.
When the lab I first moved to here in Dundee moved up from London the -20C and -80C freezers were simply loaded onto the trucks, plugged in and driven up.
I did this once, getting mice from Paris to Dundee as morulae (balls of cells stage of development: 1 becomes 2, becomes 4 etc) in a 5ml screw top vial by fast courier. They were then implanted into recipient female mices and miraculously baby mice came out the other end after 19 or so days.
It had to be done this way because of rabies regulations here in the UK. Stupidly lab mice are covered by this and applying for the permits was and probably still is a nightmare. Getting the mices as embryos also meant they could go straight in behind the barrier into the clean rooms.
I know a scientist in Geneva who wanted to send mice to some people in Paris. Flying from Switzerland was a problem with regulations. So, he drove to the French part of Geneva airport, put the mice in his pockets and took a domestic flight to Paris.
I have also got mice from England by dint of driving from Dundee to a hotel in South Queensferry and transferring boxes of mouse cages from the boot of one car to ours. A very suspicious looking activity carried out in broad daylight.
While I was studying the final year of my MSc., my parents decided to sell their house in London and move to Rugby. They were a bit concerned as to how some of their pets would be transported, so I had a word with the Warden of the halls of residence and asked him if I could house their pets for a fortnight while the move took place. "Pets?" he asked, "How many?" I replied "About 40", his eyebrows disappeared above his hairline and he asked "40 what?" "Tropical fish, in a tank about 3 feet by 1 foot by 1 foot". No problem then. I drove down to London and we installed the tank in the back of my estate, plumbed in a bottle of medical oxygen to the aerator and wired in a 12V heater and thermostat, and I set off back to Rugby. With the help of a few fellow students, the tank was installed in my room in halls, and a couple of weeks later, transferred to the new flat. I also took the train down on the moving weekend so I could drive my mother's 100E Escort up, laden with all of their houseplants, plus their cat.
The SAR service has presumably been kept live because 500 meters inaccuracy is better than nothing when trying to find someone lost at sea ...
A more lilely reason is that Galileo SAR component is mostly independent of its GNSS function - it is a COSPAS-SARSAT receiver/transmitter (it is a common practice to piggy-badk them on other satellites these days). The native location accuracy of COSPAS-SARSAT is on the order of a few kilometers (which is already very impresseive, given that it relies solely on the analysis of the radio signal of the emergency beacon); a few hundred meters extra won't affect its usability in any way.
 the beacon is free to transmit its own coordinates if it knows them through other means (e.g. by having its own GNSS receiver, which presumably will be smart enougth to use the GPS/GLONASS/Beidou signal as well) - the responsible SAR service will receive both sets of coordinates from COSPAS-SARSAT.
The organization has been keen to point out that Galileo is still in its testing phase and so it's not that big a deal.
Fair point - sort of. But it's two years into the testing phase, and one would expect that anything that can totally bork the whole system this badly would be found in the earlier phases of testing, not close to live.
That woudl, I guess, entirely depend on what tests they are carrying out. If one of those tests is, for instance, to recover from a (simulated) malicious ground signal to test the system's resilience to interference from hostile actors, then this might be exactly what you would expect...
Oh, I got the reference alright (#), but I'm not sure what that has to do with the use of the word I was talking about.
Especially as I don't recall Freddie Mercury singing "will you do the literal fandango"... ;-)
(#) Is there anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past 40 years who *wouldn't* get a Bohemian Rhapsody reference nowadays?
Perhaps ironic that correct use of "literal" and "literally" is itself anomalous. Linguistically speaking, it proclaims the authority for your subject as being something you've read, as opposed to something you have personally experienced. Or indeed figured out from first principles or deduced from available evidence. Or indeed, imagined or invented.
What proportion of things you read are ... erm ... literally true?
p.s. is "fandango" supposed to mean anything? Googling it just finds a company of that name - not even the puerile journalistic reference associating it with Galileo.
(Waiting for a millennial to point out that "literal" is an (utterly empty) intensifier nowadays and not actually meant literally. The irony...)
It's litorally due to objects designed to operate in shallow seas being expected to work in shallow space.
(I wonder if we'll get to leave before the repair/replacement bill comes due?)
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