Well, well the EU’s GPS system is down.

Graham Charles Lear
3 min readJul 16, 2019


The total outage of EU’s GPS system for the last five days continues

Who knew about this?

Astronomical delays, rocketing costs, and now the EU is lost without the US GPS system.

The EU’s £17.5 billion Global Navigation Satellite System (the EU’s equivalent of GPS, named Galileo) crashed on Thursday afternoon, 11 July 2019. All of its satellites have been out of service since then, meaning a total loss of service for the last five days. At the time of writing the system is still down.

The EU’s SatNav system — Galileo

  1. So far the Galileo Project has taken 25 years from initiation in 1994

2. this EU taxpayer-funded SatNav system is still only 73% complete

3. The original deadline for completion passed 12 years ago

4. The budget has rocketed to 7 times the original figure, now £17.5bn

5. It’s now equivalent to half the entire annual GDP for EU member state Estonia

6. The project is not projected to complete until 2020

7. This means 26 years in the making and 13 years after the original deadline.

The impact of this

Users including the emergency services have been unable to access the system at all for the past five days. Here is what the EU’s agency wrote about this eventuality when they were justifying the reason to have the EU’s own GPS system.

“Just think what would happen if GNSS [GPS] signals were suddenly switched off. Truck and taxi drivers, ship and aircraft crews and millions of people around the world would suddenly be lost. Furthermore, financial and communication activities, public utilities, security, and humanitarian operations and emergency services would all come to a standstill.

‘European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency’ website, accessed 16 July 2019

What the EU Commission has said about this

Bizarrely, the EU Commission has made no mention of this total failure of one of its flagship projects on its press release website. Instead, they left it to one of their agencies: the ‘European Space Agency’, based in Prague.

On Thursday the European Space Agency announced in a Notice Advisory to Galileo Users (NAGU) that “Users may experience service degradation on all Galileo satellites. This means that the signals may not be available nor meet the minimum performance levels.”

This notice was subsequently upgraded a few hours later and they officially put all 22 of their active satellites in the “not usable” category. They then declared:-

“Until further notice, users experience a service outage. The signals are not to be used.”- European Space Agency, accessed 16 Jul 2019

The EU redefines the term ‘space-time continuum’

The EU’s SatNav system has been beset by astronomical delays and rocketing costs since it first started back in 1994.

EU excludes the UK, despite UK funding

In January 2018 the Commission declared that the UK would not have full access to the system, despite the UK having borne over £1bn of the costs. Nevertheless, the UK continues to contribute funds to the program to this day.

On 24 January 2018, the EU Commission announced “Today the Commission adopted a decision to transfer the back-up site of the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre from the United Kingdom to Spain. The Galileo Security Monitoring Centre (GSMC) is a technical infrastructure which plays a key role in ensuring the security of the EU’s satellite navigation program Galileo, including its Public Regulated Service (PRS). As a consequence of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the GSMC’sbackup site needs to be relocated.”EU Commission, 24 Jan 2018.

The EU likes to announce things

In December 2016 the EU Commission announced “Galileo goes live!” on its press release website.

Unfortunately, on the same day, the Director of the European Space Agency’s Galileo programme said “Much work remains to be done. The entire constellation needs to be deployed, the ground infrastructure needs to be completed and the overall system needs to be tested and verified.”

Some may feel that the words of the leading scientist from the EU’s space agency may be a truer representation of the overall project picture than that given by EU Commission, particularly in light of the events of the last five days.

[ Sources: EU Commission | EU Legal Docs | European Space Agency | European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency | DExEU



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.