A probe into the outage of Europe’s Galileo global satellite navigation system blamed an unclear chain of command among agencies as one cause of the disruption, according to a summary of the conclusions seen by POLITICO.
The inquiry board, set up in the wake of a July blackout of the Galileo constellation, pointed to human error and the state of “organization and management” of the €10 billion program.
An official familiar with the full report, drafted by space experts from European capitals, also said the recommendations called for the soon-to-be-expanded European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA) to be granted more autonomy in how it operates satellites.
According to the summary, policymakers should “optimise Galileo’s governance to better meet the needs of a service-driven exploitation phase” while bringing in measures that would allow “for an oversight function.”
The Prague-based GSA, which is set to be beefed up and renamed the EU Agency for the Space Programme during the next budgetary cycle, operates Galileo on a day-to-day basis. However, the Paris-based European Space Agency, which is not an EU institution but includes most of the bloc’s countries, manages procurement and technical operations on Galileo. The European Commission’s internal market directorate handles the political side of the scheme and has overall control.
The European Parliament has previously called for a clear division of tasks between the different agencies running the project.
The inquiry board report targeted the “mishandling of a temporary equipment installed for the upgrade” as a reason for the outage, indicating that staff mistakes during maintenance at a ground-based station were to blame for the failure, which saw all 22 of the satellites currently in orbit reporting false coordinates for almost a week due to a problem with the ground-based infrastructure.
The full report conclusions were discussed with diplomats from EU member countries, along with Norway and Switzerland, at a meeting on Friday.
The report into the blackout comes as EU countries mull proposals to spend €16 billion on space projects as part of talks on the next seven-year EU budget. Meanwhile, ministers of ESA member countries meet next week to debate the agency’s request to spend billions more for its next three-year budget.
The blackout is a problem for EU officials talking up Galileo’s relative accuracy compared to the U.S.’s GPS system. Russia and China also have their own geolocating satellite systems.
Although full service on the Galileo constellation is only expected to be activated next year, there are already more than 1 billion users worldwide, according to the Commission.