The System: Galileo PRS Delivery in Question

November 1, 2010  - By

Once envisioned to orbit 30 satellites, Galileo’s constellation has over time been reduced to a planned, though still not space-borne, four initial satellites plus 14 operational satellites for a total of 18. The European Space Agency (ESA), under direction of the European Commission (EC), confirmed at the October 19–21 European Navigation Conference (ENC) in Germany that it plans to declare an Initial Operating Capability (IOC), or FOC-1 (Full Operating Capability, Phase One) — the terminology varies — once a constellation of 18 is achieved, in the 2014–2015 timeframe.

Such a reduced system will not enable global delivery of the Public Regulated Service (PRS), planned as a Galileo-only (that is, not in interoperation with or dependent upon any other GNSS) application. The PRS will use encrypted signals, and access will be limited to authorized governmental agencies. Much sought by the EC, its member states and militaries, and in some views the original and most compelling motivation for Galileo in the first place — to wit, independence from GPS — PRS now appears to recede from view. Quite simply, more satellites are necessary.

The same geometry-in-space and radio-frequency factors apply to some of the high-precision services once envisioned for intelligent transport systems (ITS) within Europe: tools to relieve traffic congestion and decrease environmental pollution, to enable more and denser high-speed rail links and freight, and similarly for marine (in-harbor and along-canal) operations.

Galileo finds itself face to face with the potential absence of its own raison d’être. It may need to collaborate with GPS to achieve what were Galileo-only goals. A possible alternative would be to reconfigure the reduced constellation somehow so that it can provide continuous service over the European continent only. This option would not satisfy the needs of European peace-keeping missions around the world, however.

Doubts from the Floor. An audience member at the E1NC posed the question of the hour to Edgar Thielman, Head of Unit, EU Satellite Navigation Programmes, in charge of Applications, International Relations and Security Issues:

“We are going to have Galileo-only applications like the Public Regulated Service (PRS) for governments. This cannot work with 18 satellites, unless maybe — this has to be investigated — the 18 satellites are configured in a constellation that will give optimum coverage of Europe. Has this been thought about yet?”

Thielman replied that European governing agencies are “in discussions about what to do.”

The EC’s problem is that there is no money available after 2014 — at least not until the next formal round of funding allocations is made.

A high-level representative of DLR, the German aerospace agency, spoke from the audience about simulations his agency had undertaken using a hypothetical constellation of 24 satellites. This seemed to hint that Germany might know where additional funding could be found for more satellites, but separate news developments (see following story) contra-indicated this possibility.

Proposal. Earlier in October, the EC released a proposal for better management of critical transport and emergency services, better law enforcement, improved internal security (border control), and safer peace missions — all through the PRS.

“The safety and security of each and every European citizen lies at the heart of this proposal,” said Antonio Tajani, EC vice president in charge of industry and entrepreneurship. “Given our increasing reliance on satellite navigation infrastructures, there is an urgent need to ensure that key services, such as our police forces and rescue and emergency services, continue to function in moments of crisis, terrorist threat, or disaster. Furthermore, the market for PRS applications offers an important opportunity for Europe’s entrepreneurs.”

Thielman Speaks. In a private conversation with GPS World, Edgar Thielman stressed that “PRS will be one of the first services of Galileo, as soon as it is functional. We envision that in the 2014/2015 timeframe, with 18 satellites enabling the IOC. We know that development of receivers and technical hardware is still to be done. Thus we put forward the proposal, to be on safe ground, to have a common understanding for industry and participants.

“The IOC constellation will provide in the beginning the Open Signal (OS), the Safety-of-Life (SOL), and the PRS. The interests are of these three services are different from one another. The PRS follows a completely different logic. But the Member States are interested in getting this specific service, and also the European Commission and the European Council.”

Thielman explained that these three collective entities anticipate PRS capabilities to deal with “crisis situations — 
where the Open Signal is jammed. Government services must be able to function in very difficult circumstances, for instance, peace-keeping missions.”

He added, “We want to open this service to other international organizations and states, subject to agreement.” Such discussion on cooperation with third countries, as well as discussions within the EC and among Member States on optimization — that is, ways to overcome the deficiencies of a constellation limited to 18 satellites — are ongoing.

“We have a lot of talks. The starting point is to have a system that satisfies the needs of the EU and EC with the means we have.”

It was not stated, but seems implicit to many observers, that such means to enable the PRS may require more cooperation with and use of GPS than Galileo proponents may have originally wished.

Space, Ground Work Package Signed

The EC signed the fourth of six procurement contracts for Galileo, this one for €194 million for operations of the space and ground infrastructure, with Space-Opal GmbH, a joint venture created by DLR GfR (Germany) and Telespazio S.p.A (Italy). EC VP Antonio Tajani maintained that “Galileo is becoming a reality. Europe will have its own independent satellite navigation system capable of high precision and reliability. We are fully committed to the roll-out of the system. Given the increased reliance of companies and citizens on satellite navigation, Galileo will play an important role in our daily lives.”

Procurement for Galileo’s full operational capability is divided into six contracts. In January 2010, three contracts were awarded to ensure system engineering support, satellites, and launchers. The two remaining procurement contracts, for the completion of the ground mission infrastructure and the ground control infrastructure, will be awarded in early 2011.

Money Trouble

The global financial crisis has European finance ministers trying to back away from current Galileo funding, let alone any projected future increases. The German government asked the EC to propose ways to cut current Galileo cost projections, said that country’s Transport Ministry. According to reports, one suggestion to realize savings calls for a switch from the planned Ariane 5 launcher (operated by a largely French company) to the Russian Soyuz launcher to place Galileo satellites in orbit.

Financial Times Deutschland cited an EC report forecasting extra costs of €1.5–1.7 billion ($2.1–2.4 billion), beyond the current €3.4 billion budget. FTD said the report labels Galileo as unprofitable in the long term, at an annual loss of €750 million.

In 2007, the European Parliament withstood such running tides and devised an unusual financing scheme to keep the program going, by raiding a massive surplus agricultural support fund. Such a maneuver may not be repeatable, as farmers have long memories; EC officials, still feeling the heat from that move, profess that, barring an unforeseen occurrence, Galileo cannot get any more money.

Notwithstanding, Edit Herczog, member of the European Parliament’s committee on industry, research, and energy, stated that “If it is too big to fail, then it can’t. This is something we can build on.”

Antonio Tajani, an EC VP, rejected the German press figures as “exorbitant” and “unimagineable.” He maintained that Galileo’s costs remain at €3.4 billion ($4.7 billion). “I don’t know where these figures come from,” he stated at a news conference.

Space Agency Acts on Security, IP Concerns

ESA abruptly withdrew six technical presentations on new Galileo developments from the European Navigation Conference (ENC) without immediate explanation. Probing by GPS World elicited a reply that “the papers were withdrawn by ESA because they contained too detailed information that could have led to knowledge transfer.” A further hypothetical, and emphatically unofficial, possible reason was posited later by one knowledgeable attendee, having to do with security issues.

Most of the presentations were due to be given during a session on “Galileo Development and Test Results” on Tuesday afternoon, October 19. The withdrawal created some consternation among the several hundred conference attendees, as the session would have been the technical highlight of the conference and was much anticipated, and further because no official explanation for the action was offered. A somewhat dated presentation was offered in place of the first paper, and the rest of the session was simply dismissed.

Later during the conference, GPS World heard speculation from a conference participant, who did not have any official knowledge or clearance, that one or more of the papers may have contained information about the Galileo ground control system that, if made public, might have created vulnerabilities to Internet hacking attacks.

The withdrawn papers covered the Galileo Orbit and Synchronisation Processing Facility, results from the first user receiver-autonomous integrity monitoring and interference mitigation tests at the Galileo Test Range (GATE) — although the GATE manager stated to GPS World that this particular paper was not withdrawn by ESA for any official reason, but by the GATE itself, because it had received the special test receiver necessary from ESA too late to perform the tests in question — the Galileo ground mission segment operability chain, cumulative distribution function overbounding, the Galileo constellation system verification processes and methods, and, from a later session on GNSS software and algorithms, a paper on coherent E5 ALTBOC processing with the Galileo TUS receiver.

In the closing session, David Broughton, secretary-general of the International Association of Institutes of Navigation, summarized,”Content of the conference generally was excellent, with the exception of coverage of Galileo, with many papers withdrawn by ESA.  Understandably, this caused much annoyance from the delegates. It was disappointing to see the conference treated with such disdain — if the European Navigation Conference cannot be given a true account of Galileo’s progress, then who can?” This drew applause from the delegates.

The authors of three of the papers are staffers from ESA itself; the authors of the other three come from companies under contract to the agency.

SatNav Briefs

China’s next BeiDou-2 Compass-G4 satellite rose into orbit on October 31 from the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province, 10 years to the day from the launch of the first BeiDou-1A.

Japan’s new QZSS vehicle Michibiki has reached its final quasi-zenith orbit.JAXA, the Japanese aerospace agency, stated “we started transmission of one of the positioning signals, namely the L1-SAIF signal from the L1-SAIF antenna of the Michibiki on October 19, after we turned on its onboard positioning mission devices.

“We will make sure that the L1-SAIF signal has compatibility with the existing positioning services, and then begin transmitting signals from the L-band helical antenna, namely the L1-C/A, L2C, L5, L1C, and LEX signals.”

SBAS for Latin America. A new satellite-based augmentation system signal covering the Caribbean, Central and South America was broadcast by GMV and Inmarsat. The demonstration of an SBAS in test mode took place in front of representatives from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

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