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System of Systems: Brexit may oust UK from Galileo work

April 26, 2017  - By

Brexit May Oust U.K. from Galileo Work

Participation of the United Kingdom space industry in Galileo may be in doubt as negotiations get underway on details of the U.K. withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

European Commission officials signaled that they want to rely solely on producers within the European Union for the block’s major programs, citing security concerns such as the possible acquisition of a U.K. contractor by a company from a non-EU country such as China.

In particular, officials are concerned about protecting the heavily encrypted, jam-resistant Public Regulated Service capability designed for government use that is reserved for EU member states and where U.K. industry has had a significant role.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., based in Guildford, England, but a subsidiary of France-based Airbus, built 22 navigation payloads for Europe’s Galileo satellite fleet.

Other companies with U.K. interests that could be affected include Qinetiq, CGI, Airbus and Scisys.

Galileo SAR Service Launched

Galileo’s Search And Rescue (SAR) service became officially operational with a public launch on April 6, as part of the COSPAS-SARSAT network for detecting and locating emergency beacons activated by aircraft, ships and hikers. According to the European Commission, Galileo SAR will help reduce the detection delay of a distress signal from up to several hours to 10 minutes.

At sea, this makes SAR rescue operations easier thanks to a narrowed search box, since the vessel in distress has less time to drift. On land, acquisition of a precise position enables rescue teams to more quickly reach the operation zone and assist the victims. In the air, Galileo contributes to fulfilling International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements for implementing the next-generation emergency management system Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS).

SAR transponders on Galileo satellites can pick up signals emitted from 406-MHz distress beacons anywhere in the service coverage area and transmit this information to the dedicated ground stations, the Medium-Earth Orbit Local User Terminals (MEOLUTs). The SAR/Galileo infrastructure is interoperable with GPS and GLONASS SAR transponders.
Once the beacon is located by the MEOLUTs, the location data is sent to the COSPAS-SARSAT mission control center, which distributes it to the relevant rescue centers. These then coordinate the required rescue efforts.

Galileo provides a ground segment coverage of 40 million square kilometers over Europe as a contribution to MEOSAR global coverage. Galileo SAR service is one of the three services launched in December 2016 with the Initial Services. The SAR service represented 1 percent of total Galileo program costs, but should result in thousands of lives being saved, said the European Commission.

Pile of Studies Produced Not a Lot

Gen. Shelton

Headshot: Gen. Shelton

Testifying before a joint hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee and House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee on March 29, Retired Gen. William Shelton, the former head of Air Force Space Command, warned that the U.S. needs to take action to protect GPS very soon.

He cited demonstrated ability by the Chinese government in 2007 to destroy a satellite in orbit, and improved signal jamming and cyber attack capabilities against ground control systems. The U.S. is unprepared to meet those threats, he said.

“Here we are 10 years later and we don’t really have a lot to show but a pile of studies,” Shelton said. “We’ve been part of this ‘one more study’ kind of attitude. ‘Well, that may not be the perfect answer, so let’s just do one more study’ and meanwhile time marches on. Satellites have fixed lifetimes, and you need to plan for the death of the satellite. A decision not to move forward is a de facto decision to maintain the status quo with no protection.”

Shelton stated that space research and development is at a 30-year low, with 15–40 percent of R&D funds taken by management services and technical assistance rather than actual research and development.

“The executive branch and the legislative branch could get together and agree on a strategy and a way forward and then execute … I don’t see any other way. There has to be some broad agreement here in the whole of government as we move forward.”

June Launch in japan for QZSS Michibiki 2

QZSS’s second satellite is scheduled for launch in June. Once completed, the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System will be a satellite augmentation system for GPS over Japan and other parts of the Pacific region.

Michibiki 2 will be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), with a launch window planned for June 1–30. The system’s first Michibiki satellite was launched in September 2010.

OCX Back on Track

OCX, the next-generation ground control system for GPS, is back on track following a 2016 government contract breach that prompted the Air Force to work with Raytheon to revise OCX’s budget and schedule, according to the company.

Raytheon implemented a series of corrective actions through 2015 and 2016 to get the delayed program on a firm timeframe for completion. Coding on OCX was about 80 percent complete in late March, according to the company.

Raytheon completed a re-baselining on OCX in March, setting up a new timeline for completion. Current delivery for the full system is planned for December 2020.

DevOps. The OCX team reduced development cycle times to create more efficient software development by using a commercial best practice called DevOps, which adds more automation into coding and testing, and breaks coding down into units rather than focusing on the need to finish the complete system all at once.

A subset of OCX, the Launch and Checkout System for GPS satellites is undergoing testing at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. Raytheon expects to complete testing and deliver the system by late September or early October.

EGNOS Refreshes

The geosynchrous Earth-orbit (GEO) satellites broadcasting EGNOS messages changed in March. PRN 123 was introduced in the operational platform, and PRN 136 was moved from the operational platform to the test platform.

Regional aviation in the dense European air traffic system is a key market segment for EGNOS, according to Gian Gherardo Calini, the European GNSS Agency’s head of market development. More than 440 EGNOS-based approaches are available at nearly 220 airports across Europe. These figures are expected to dramatically increase in the coming years.

A proposal from the European Aviation Safety Agency recommends that air ANSPs and aerodrome operators implement Performance Based Navigation (PBN) approach procedures with vertical guidance (APV), such as EGNOS LPVs, at all non-precision instrument runway ends by 2020.

Second GPS III Launch Contracted

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a second GPS III satellite launch contract to SpaceX.

According to the $96.5 million agreement, the company will provide GPS III launch vehicle production, mission integration, launch operations, spaceflight worthiness and mission-unique activities. Work is expected to be complete by April 30, 2019.

An earlier SpaceX launch contract, worth $82.7 million, calls for orbiting a GPS satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in May 2018.

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