System of Systems: Galileo turns 12 — or 9

January 7, 2016  - By
Galileo Twins Alba and Oriana separate in mid-Earth orbit from the Fregat mother ship (artist’s concept, courtesy of ESA).

Galileo Fregat upper stage flew the latest two Galileo satellites most of the way up to medium-Earth orbit before they finally separated. (Artist’s concept, courtesy of ESA).

Galileo satellites 11 and 12 lifted off together on Dec. 17 atop a Soyuz rocket, and successfully deployed in space four hours later. The pair effectively doubles the number of Galileo satellites in space over the last nine months.

Five satellites are now set operational to the user. Once 9 and 10 (launched in September 2015) as well as 11 and 12 are set operational, a total of nine usable satellites will be in orbit. Satellites 5 and 6 may be partially usable at some point.

“Along with the ground stations put in place around the globe, this brings Galileo’s completion within reach,” said Jan Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency.

“Production, testing and launch of the remaining satellites are now proceeding on a steady basis according to plan,” added Didier Faivre, ESA’s director of Galileo and navigation-related activities.

Starting with launches in the third quarter of 2016, four rather than two satellites at a time will rise into orbit. This accelerated deployment should bring 30 satellites on line — 24 operational and six orbit spares — by 2020 for full operational capability of the European GNSS. Initial operating capability is foreseen by the end of 2016.

“The target is initial service next year, with a reduced constellation, for the Open Service, Public Regulated Service and Search-and-Rescue,” said Carlo des Dorides, executive director of the European GNSS Agency (GSA). “We will also start proof-of-concept testing for the Commercial Service. The performance will be reduced in terms of availability and continuity because of the reduced number of satellites — but not in terms of accuracy.”

Fundamental Elements. For the benefit of users and industry on the ground, the GSA announced in September the provision of 100 million euros ($110 million) to promote development of chipsets and receivers. Slated for distribution between 2015 and 2020, the funds are to stimulate market reception for Galileo. The announcement followed a paper published by the Galileo Services industry consortium urged accelerated investment by European governments to safeguard competitiveness of European manufacturers with U.S. and Chinese industry in the satnav user equipment market.

Sensitivity on PRS. Sorting out access to the encrypted Public Regulated Service (PRS), even among the 28 EU member nations, involves some thorny issues. EU officials have grappled with so-called Common Minimum Standards that set rules on PRS access for national government agencies and PRS hardware manufacturers, with the goal of ensuring that the encrypted signal is not compromised. The diversity of EU nations’ security precautions is wide enough that the European Commission (EC) has reserved the right to conduct inspections of agencies and companies working with PRS to verify compliance. Each nation using PRS will create a specialized agency responsible for its use.

Due to the sensitive subject matter, the EU will not publish supporting documents for the Common Minimum Standards in the EU’s Official Journal. The standards were nonetheless approved in November.

Nations outside the EU face a more difficult path to PRS. Norway and the United States have applied. Both are members of the North Atlantic Treat Organization (NATO), and military use by all agreeing parties is a tacit aspect of the PRS. The next step to granting U.S. and Norwegian access is for the EU’s highest decision-making body, the European Council, to give the European Commission authority to open negotiations with U.S. and Norwegian authorities.

New ICD. In late November, the European Commission published a new release 1.2 of the Galileo Open Service Signal In Space Interface Control Document (OS SIS ICD v1.2).

GPS Fully Funded, Minus $2 Million

In late November, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016, after vetoing a previous version. The enacted NDAA complies with the two-year budget agreement, which called for a reduction in defense spending.

The act reduces the GPS IIF line item by $2 million, citing “unjustified support growth” from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, but otherwise recommends full funding for the Air Force GPS program ($936.775 million).

Privacy Uptaken. In other Capitol developments, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) reintroduced the Location Privacy Protection Act. According to the senator’s office, “The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2015 closes legal loopholes that allow stalking applications to exist on smartphones.

“Sen. Franken’s bill fixes this problem by requiring companies to get customers’ permission before collecting their location data or sharing it with third parties.”

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About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.