back to article Galileo satnav system gets two new somewhat confusing satellites

The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the successful launch of the 27th and 28th satellites in its Galileo satnav constellation on Sunday. "With these satellites we are now increasing the robustness of the constellation so that a higher level of service guarantees can be provided," said ESA Director of Navigation Paul …

  1. Ken G
    Trollface

    OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

    Or has it been renamed to something more Jingo-y?

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

      OneWeb are currently at 352/588 satellites. Four more launches of 34 satellites are planned between now and February. As there are no links between these satellites service can only be available near a ground station. I have not found a list of current or planned ground stations. These satellites are intended for communications and not GPS. It is somewhat possible to use communications satellites for GPS but with limitations: a big antenna and lots of time to collect many data points to average out random errors.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

      If they were renaming OneWeb it would probably be something along the lines of "Final warning: If BT Openreach doesn't deploy something better than a 56k modem to villages before this goes live despite the billions in public money they've been paid to do it then we'll spend the money on satellite connections for those villages instead".

      This admittedly is a very unwieldy name, but probably a more accurate description than the "KnockOffGPS" that you appear to be assuming.

      It's also actually a good deal, BT were last paid £1.5 billion for network upgrades to villages etc a few years ago; OpenWeb cost UK PLC 0.4 billion and will probably actually deliver a heck of a lot more capability to low population density areas.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

        @Peter2

        I am hoping this is the plan with the sats. It would be a great way to solve that connectivity issue we have with people in the sticks.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

          Well, it looks like it's part of the plan:-

          https://oneweb.net/media-center/oneweb-and-bt-sign-agreement-to-explore-rural-connectivity-solutions-in-the-uk-and-beyond

          Though personally i'd prefer that somebody other than BT gets involved to provide some competition to Openreach. There's nothing like competition and the eventual threat of impending corporate bankruptcy and unemployment to drive activity, which notably is absent at the moment.

          1. Colin Bull 1
            Go

            Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

            'somebody other than BT

            Well it looks like FTTP is coming to Torpoint in darkest Cornwall in February courtesy of Widanet. I am happy to pay an extra £5 to £10 a month to BT's competitor for the sake of choice. Every day we have to scramble round the trenches all over town.

            1. Pete4000uk

              Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

              Several local country lanes near me in Gloucestershire have had FTTP put in by GigaClear. It was funny walking down a muddy lane to suddenly come across a fountain of 100+ fibre tubes.

      2. Just Another SteveO

        Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

        Maybe he assumed ‘knockoffGPS’ from comments like this:

        “The UK is spending $500m (£400m) on a stake in failed satellite firm OneWeb as part of a plan to replace use of the EU's Galileo sat-nav system.”

        And

        “The UK government sees satellites as a way to meet commitments on the roll-out of super-fast broadband and believes OneWeb's constellation could also deliver a precise Positioning, Navigation and Timing service, also known as sat-nav.

        The latter has become a political imperative for No 10 since losing membership of Europe's Galileo satellite-navigation system on departure from the EU in January.

        Although Galileo's free and open signals remain accessible to the UK, its more secure signals, known as PRS, intended for military and government agency use, are only available to member states. UK ministers want to replace this capacity with a home-grown system.”

        From https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53279783. I remember this shambles of a government talking about it at the time….

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

          The ministers comments on the linked to article said:-

          "Our access to a global fleet of satellites has the potential to connect millions of people worldwide to broadband, many for the first time, and the deal presents the opportunity to further develop our strong advanced manufacturing base right here in the UK."

          Which certainly implies that the minister is interested in the broadband rather than a SatNav aspect. It probably also will supplement the Skynet programme, although I doubt that the OneWeb sats are laser, EMP and jamming proof they probably do well for most purposes and free up bandwidth.

          The BBC's editorial comments say about it being part of a global sat nav system to replace Galileo, citing a white paper on the subject from the "Satellite Applications Catapult", which personally i'd take with about the same credibility as a report from Gartner.

          This article:-

          https://insidegnss.com/uk-sees-a-way-back-into-galileo-through-the-leo-door/

          Basically says that the UK can on national security grounds ban other countries (ie; the EU) from having access to OneWeb and implies that those national security issues over allowing EU countries access might go away if the EU's objections to the UK using Galileo went the same way, which would appear to be a more credible and useful method of using a broadband system as a satnav.

          That of course would be petty, but reciprocally so.

        2. Chris 239
          Joke

          Re: OneWeb must be coming online soon too...

          Maybe the government consulted Stephen Fry about how GPS works, looked at how OneWeb is supposed to work and decided they are the same!

  2. Christoph

    And what's happened to BrexitNav?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re. And what's happened to BrexitNav?

      It's a GREAT SUCCESS (one of many!) and the whole world is choking on envy, haven't you noticed?

    2. Thought About IT

      Well, one thing that's happened to BrexitNav is that our airfields have had to abandon plans to switch to or implement much cheaper satnav precision approaches. The price of sovereignty!

      1. Justthefacts Bronze badge

        No they havent.

        This is a Commission pipe dream.

        Firstly. No U.K. airfield ever had such plans.

        Secondly. No EU airfield has such plans. A couple of airfields have been paid to host a Commission test installation on-site. But this is *not* the airfield trialling it.

        Thirdly, if the airfield fitted it, it would have to be fitted on the plane too. Which requires *all* airline operators to fit it. Otherwise the remainder still need the current system. As of now, *zero* airline operators have indicated any interest, despite being polled repeatedly.

        Fourthly, it also requires the approval of all aircraft manufacturers. Including Boeing. You can imagine what they said, when asked.

        Fifthly. If it had been installed, do you know what the SLA is? You are probably thinking in terms of five 9s for such a safety critical thing. Right? Errr…nope. The *aspiration* is 99% availability. No more than 75 hours non-availability per year. But it’s only an aspiration. Galileo won’t commit to that contractually. Currently they are at 95%.

        1. Chris 239

          Re: No they havent.

          While I don't know about the 1st two or the 5th of your numbered points and they sound plausible I take issue with 3rd and 4th

          3rd - it would not need all operators or planes to be fitted with the system - the airport would maintain all the old systems alongside the new just as they do now with the decades old ILS and the current precision approach systems, also right now not all airports or aircraft have precision landing systems and there are procedures to ensure the pilots know if and when they can use a precision landing system or have to use a Mk1 eyeball.

          4th - it would not require the approval of all aircraft manufactures, just one - as above a precision landing system is optional - if there is demand from operators then it is a commercial decision for the manufacturer to make.

          But I agree that the EU acted disgracefully over Galileo, but then the whole Brexit was (and still is) a predictable cluster fuck by both sides driven more by posturing, prejudice and hurt feelings than any considered desire for the best outcome. Fucking politicians.

          1. Chris 239

            Re: No they havent.

            On a fight from Southend to Jersey, before takeoff the Captain came on and said it was dicey they would be able to land at Jersey because it was foggy there and he would have fuel to fly back to Southend.

            He also pointed out that while the airplane was a fully equipped with precision approach and autoland so it could land with zero visibility * Jersey airport did not have the required ground systems for that which seemed pretty daft as it seems fog is pretty common at Jersey airport.

            The pilots made the landing on the 3rd (and last before fuel meant they would have to give up and fly back!) attempt. I had a window seat and damn we seemed pretty low when the ground became visible. They must have been using ILS until the very last bit.

            * jeepers that must be weird/ scary for the pilots !

          2. Thought About IT

            Re: No they havent.

            "I agree that the EU acted disgracefully over Galileo"

            Why was it disgraceful to require the UK to sign up to the same rules and arbitration as every other partiicipating country?

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: No they havent.

              Not forgetting that during the conception of Galileo, it was the UK that insisted that the high resolution data should only be offered to EU members such as the UK etc. Oops!

            2. Justthefacts Bronze badge

              Re: No they havent.

              It wasn’t.

              It has been one of the minor benefits of Brexit, that we are now no longer shackled to this particular pork barrel project costing a billion a year indefinitely. The fact that we save only 1/Nth of that, doesn’t matter if the project only ever had cost but no true value.

              The major benefit of Brexit is that we are no longer involved with thousands of other bizarre projects, just less well-known.

              Here’s a link to just one of the off-EU-balance-sheet sinks of about £400bn, the European Investment Bank. There are several other such vehicles, totalling over 5 *trillion*. This is nothing to do with the Corona bonds, or QE. Those are *in addition* to the 5 trillion.

              Because these are “loans”, the EU doesn’t count these in the countries subscriptions. It just sends the money out, and assumes it will all come back some day. Meanwhile, the loss risk exists, unrecognised.

              https://www.eib.org/en/projects/loans/index.htm

              Have a look. Which of those projects developing European Union infrastructure is your favourite? Just on the first page we have, errrr….

              81million electricity transmission project in Malawi

              38million microfinance to sub-Saharan Africa, and the Pacific.

              150million student loans in Hungary

              Rural fibre network in Georgia (famously both not in the EU, but also under active military dispute with Russia)

              250million to Electrolux. Why the EU is loaning such vast sums to a private company, who can say.

              100million to Zuyderland Medisch Centrum - financing the merger between two private healthcare providers in the Netherlands, yes of course I can see this is the business of transnational government.

              The list goes on. And on. And on. Over 1300 such loans, every one in the £50m+ range, just in a single year. 2020 and 2021 weren’t unusual, the money has flowed out like this every single year since about 2000.

              Maybe South Africa really will pay back the £50m in Covid loans. And I certainly have no problem them being given help when they need it. But I sure am glad the U.K. finances don’t depend on us getting it back. And if I were German, I would be a bit concerned. Anyway. It’s Germanys problem now.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: No they havent.

                "The major benefit of Brexit is that we are no longer involved with thousands of other bizarre projects, just less well-known."

                You mean the UK has already paid back the entirety of the €118,768,965,837 they were loaned from 1973 up to and including 2019? Including some money for Electrolux UK, I noticed.

                Good, good.

                On a side note: you don't seem to quite understand what the role of an investment bank is. Projects that are bizarre to you are actually the bread and butter of other people.

                https://www.eib.org/en/projects/loans/index.htm?q=&sortColumn=loanParts.loanPartStatus.statusDate&sortDir=desc&pageNumber=0&itemPerPage=9&pageable=false&language=EN&defaultLanguage=EN&loanPartYearFrom=1959&loanPartYearTo=2021&orCountries.region=true&countries=GB&orCountries=true&orSectors=true

                1. Justthefacts Bronze badge

                  Re: No they havent.

                  You haven’t understood the point at all.

                  Some, perhaps even a majority, of the loans may well have a sound risk-return assessment. I have no idea. And neither do you. Presumably, some of these loans are AAA rated, and some will be all the way down to BB-. With an interest-rate calculated according to someone’s assessment of default probability.

                  What I take issue with, is that *they are running a bank at all*. I have no wish, as a taxpayer, to be gambling in this field. Nor do most people. I never voted for this spending / lending, it has never been on any manifesto, of any party whether in Westminster or Brussels. The EIB is a *separate* institution established by the Treaty of Rome.

                  And they are *not even* using government / taxpayers money as lending capital. It doesn’t come from any budget. But the risk…that lands on the Member States.

                  Of course you can point to dozens of successful investment banks. Most make profits, often for decades at a time. But occasionally, some make losses, some go bankrupt. Does Lehman Brothers ring any bells? A little thing like a global financial crisis in 2008? This is EU risk, absolutely vast, and all held off-balance sheet. When people originally voted to give the EU £15bn per year subscription (or £8bn net, this is a different discussion), they assume that is their maximum liability. Not that they could wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly find they are on the hook for 10x, because some banker made a loss.

                  What if some EIB official “goes rogue”, just like Fabulous Fab. Suddenly the EU finds it is down £200bn. Or £400bn. Or they have leveraged that capital up with an unauthorised CDO instrument to hide their losses to trillions. Or tens of trillions. Who is going to pay?

                  Who is going to pay for the £200bn that the European Central Bank is currently borrowing from the Bundesbank via Target2? They have no means of generating income, they are a purely balance sheet entity mediating between other banks. So where’s the profit coming from to ever pay that back?

                  £200bn here. £400bn there. £1750bn corona bonds. Instrument after instrument, all “loans”, and none of them with any counterparty risk priced in. Because of course the ECB can’t default, so there is no risk. Right?

          3. Justthefacts Bronze badge

            Re: No they havent.

            Both true. But then it doesn’t save a single penny, as all the old systems are maintained.

            There’s nothing wrong with an optional landing system, and it has some benefits. But cost saving for the airport isn’t one of them.

            As to the commercial decision for the manufacturer. Fine, let’s see how those requests to Boeing go, to retrofit to twenty year old 737s, and re-qualify them, shall we?

        2. Thought About IT

          Re: No they havent.

          @Justthefacts, I don't know where you're getting your facts from but both Newcastle and Glasgow Prestwick had working implementations of EGNOS approaches, and others were in the pipeline for Blackpool, Gloucester and Shoreham, among others. Commercial aircraft are already equipped for those approaches, as are new light aircraft from Cessna, Cirrus and Diamond.

          As of Occtober last year, work was in progress to implement EGNOS approaches at 95 airports in Europe, while we had to abandon ours as a consequence of the extreme form of exit from the EU chosen by the Brexit headbangers.

          1. Justthefacts Bronze badge

            Re: No they havent.

            FUD.

            SBAS such as WAAS in USA, and to a lesser extent EGNOS, is widely deployed worldwide.

            This is not about EGNOS.

            Anyone can use EGNOS. Plenty of airports in Australia use it, also Madagascar, Hong Kong, and Sao Paolo is trialing. One thing I think we can agree on: those airports are not in the EU. Nor are they in any contractual or licensing relationship with the EU.

            I have literally no idea why you had to abandon an EGNOS airport approach, but if anyone is telling you this is due to Brexit, that is simply untrue. What is true, is that a landing aid with an availability target of 99%, is *never* going to be able to replace a beacon. The beacon is always needed.

            A standard EGNOS approach does not even really need High Accuracy Service. You just need to know where the runway is, not your position to within 10cm. If you are one meter above the runway, and the fog is so thick you can’t tell, then FFS do not land.

            We are talking about the Galileo Public Regulated Service, together with High Accuracy Service. This is the only Galileo service that has any access requirements, for which being inside the EU would be advantage. All the other services are open, and can be used by any country or company.

            The problem is that *nobody wants the PRS*. The Commission fantasy is that it will be so accurate and reliable that aircraft can auto-land using it. I’ve sat through hours of slide-decks where they have presented fleets of pilotless cargo drones connecting airports to warehouses. I’ve been in meetings where I was told with a straight face that apparently Amazon were just about to buy the PRS to enable pilotless cargo drone delivery to your home, guided only by Galileo PRS. And that if only I would authorise £50m to fund co-fund a pilot project, we could beat Amazon to the punch, and be the global disruptor.

            I said No. Not very politely, in the end.

            It. Is. Bullshit.

            Edit: I forgot one thing. This was ten years ago. They told me this was going to be in Full Operational Service within five years (2015). For the PRS, I understand it is still five years away: after FOC of basic Galileo (manana next year or 2023), then a couple more years for HAS FOC, then a bit more study contracts, and of course there’s Phase 3 satellites anytime manana.

    3. Paul Herber Silver badge

      It works just fine. Haven't you noticed the number of migrants using it to cross the Channel?

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Well, if following the shining beacon of prosperity and truth is satnav....

        You know the song by Fairport Convention "Jewel in the Crown"?

        1. Lon24 Silver badge

          Upvote for Fairport mention. But maybe (B)illion Dollar Bash on infinite loop if you are into unhalfbricking your Galileo military contract.

    4. Lee D

      Given that they gave it to a company that's never launched a navigation satellite, and whose existing satellites are entirely suitable for navigation purposes, the same as ever:

      They took their money, kept quiet, and did nothing.

  3. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Things I learned today: that the ESA sends Soyuz rockets up from Guiana.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      France having conveniently kept an empire - or at least a few bits near the equator

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        France having conveniently kept an empire

        French Guiana, as an overseas department of France, is a part of France (and thus also of the European Union) just as much as any department in metropolitan France is. Random fact: the largest national park in the EU is in French Guiana.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: France having conveniently kept an empire

          That's what we did wrong.

          If India had been defined as part of Greater London (perhaps zone 5++ ?) nobody would have noticed and we could have kept it.

  4. RussellX
    Meh

    User count?

    >> The satellite constellation has provided satnav positioning to over 2.3 billion users since 2016

    I assume that this figure was provided by the Galileo Consortium marketing / finance justification department?

    Not sure how they could determine the number of devices, let alone the number of "users", given that the reception of location data is a purely passive activity....

    Or is the Galileo team just indulging in some untriangulated guesstimate 'calculations' based on the number of GNSS enabled devices capable of receiving the Galileo signals sold in the EU, combined with the assumption that they are *all* using Galileo signals in preference to an other alternative navigation platform hovering above Europe...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: User count?

      "Provided" is doing a lot of heavy lifting here - they provided it whether anyone wanted/needed/used it.

    2. Justthefacts Bronze badge

      Re: User count?

      Worse than that…..

      They are basing this on the following quote on the official EU Galileo website:

      “ Companies accounting for around 50% of the smartphone market offer Galileo-enabled navigation.””

      Read that quote very, very carefully. It does *not* mean that 50% of smartphones sold support Galileo. Nor even 50% of smartphone models. Just that there are only about six major manufacturers, and each of Samsung, Apple, Huawei each offer *at least one model* that supports Galileo.

      This is the level of outright lying that the Galileo project has been getting away with from the beginning.

      https://www.euspa.europa.eu/newsroom/news/latest-iphone-8-iphone-8-plus-and-iphone-x-are-galileo-enabled#fn1

  5. rdhma

    "Other nations' systems could be degraded or disabled at a moment's notice."

    If another nation wishes to deny navigational capability, Galileo can also be disabled at a moment's notice, by spoofing or jamming the signal, or indeed turning the satellites into clouds of shrapnel. It's not like there isn't a precedent for this.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Galileo specifically has a USA kill switch - it was part of the agreement that the USA wouldn't jam it

      The original reason for Galileo was that in the event of a US-Eu trade spat a very-stable-genius US president might turn off GPS across Europe crippling Eu transport - but might not go to the extent of shooting down NATO ally's kit.

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      I imagined spoofing modern birds ought to be hard. Spoiler: the tools are present but it depends on the quality of the receiver.

      But that, and jamming, need devices in situ and are of limited range; its a lot harder than flicking a switch an unfortunate technical failure, honest guv, at a control centre.

      Which just leaves an act of war. (One that has the potential to disable everybody's constellations.) It depends on your threat model, but owning your own constellation affords more security than relying on others'.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        > jamming, need devices in situ and are of limited range

        But if you are using GNSS for military purposes you are generally in limited range of your enemy, and they are probably entirely within their rights to jam your signal.

        The best approach is to stick to only attacking enemies with a medieval technological level and hope that Aliexpress don't start selling high power jammers

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