Feeds

back to article Euro GPS Galileo gets ready for nuclear missile use

Back in March, The European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) global positioning system (GPS) alternative Galileo successfully found a ground location at tests in The Netherlands. With only four of its satellites visible at once, the ESA was chuffed that the system worked for the first time and popped out a canned statement to that effect …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Silver badge

Encrypted service has nothing to do with freedom loving

Encryption allows three things that the non-encrypted services do not:

1) Selective service provision. The regular service can be turned off or degraded while the regular service can be maintained. This allows "enemy" to be denied navigation services while "friendlies" keep navigating. Though in EU telling "friendlies" apart from "enemies" is not exactly easy.

2) Prevention of spoofing. Encrypted services are much, much, harder to spoof.

3) Better process gain. Most encrypted signals have far longer codes than unencrypted signals. That gives much better process gain which, in turn, gives positions when other systms might not. This is beneficial in some search and rescue applications.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Encrypted service has nothing to do with freedom loving

(1) is a shame. Given that EU citizens have probably funnelled a lot of money into this thing, it would be a shame if we couldn't get the full service. Wasn't one of the big selling points of Galileo the fact that it would remove our dependence on the whims of the US military?

3
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Encrypted service has nothing to do with freedom loving

Don't forget (4). Preventing the use of devices that don't report your location to the NSAunauthorised devices from using the system.

2
0
Gold badge
Unhappy

Re: Encrypted service has nothing to do with freedom loving

"Given that EU citizens have probably funnelled a lot of money into this thing, it would be a shame if we couldn't get the full service. Wasn't one of the big selling points of Galileo the fact that it would remove our dependence on the whims of the US military?"

Actually the goal of those encrypted services is to protect services provided by commercial for-profit (and otherwise) organisations from being suddenly shut off. It's not often realize one of the pervasive GPS services is time signalling to the nanosecond, which has a lot of applications, but does not directly even give you a location

Historically with GPS it's been "The military" and "everyone else." But a lot of companies (including people like train operators) rely on it. This (in principle) would keep the civilian infrastructure running smoothly without supplying a navigation system.

It will interesting to see if (or wheather) companies that make car sat navs can sign up as a "subscription" service.

2
0
Silver badge

@John Smith 19 - Re: Encrypted service has nothing to do with freedom loving

Yep - I get the points about non-military use and the fact that it is to our general benefit that the civilian infrastructure has a decent security of service. But why not make it available to all? There aren't any confidentiality issues (as far as I can tell), so why keep us out of it?

I suppose it might depend on how the encryption works and is managed, but in the absence of any more info one is left thinking that it is just a knee-jerk 'keep the peasants out of it' decision. (Oh, and profit-making. I forgot that).

1
1
Silver badge

Re: @John Smith 19 - Encrypted service has nothing to do with freedom loving

The non-encrypted service is free. The idea was that they'd make their costs back on subscriptions to the encrypted services.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: @John Smith 19 - Encrypted service has nothing to do with freedom loving

But they have to set the price low enough that you can't do better with SBAS and beacons so will never make back the cost of billing for the service - never mind the billions for actually launching the things

0
0
Gold badge

Re: Encrypted service has nothing to do with freedom loving

(4) is technically impossible, unless you deliberately place a reporting device alongside the GPS receiver. (Hint: it's called a receiver for a reason.)

1
0
Silver badge

Subscription

I thought, all along, the idea was to have a subscription-based service (even if it was a one-time cost rolled into the price of the reciever) to provide commerical resiliance over government fickleness. I'd even be quite happy to punch in a 20-digit number sent out each year to EU taxpayers. If I had to subscribe separately I'd pay a fiver a year.

I understand that lots of recievers have both glonass and navstar, but I have yet to see a reciever with a big switch saying "believe the yanks" or "believe the cossaks". when "believe the beethovenists" becomes available it will be interesting to see what happens.

1
0

Re: Subscription

Phones (or at least my wife's bog-standard Samsung GSIII) can tell the difference between the constellations; for example, in the GPS Test app, they're shown with different icons.

This means it can be done at the app level, meaning the "big switch" would probably be trivial to implement.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Subscription

>meaning the "big switch" would probably be trivial to implement.

I'd have thought so. Most survey-grade instruments allow you knock individual birds out of the solution, so you can limit yourself to one system, but not with a 'big switch'.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Subscription

When there's 3 GPS systems: believe the two that agree?

2
0

INS/GPS aren't the only options

An unaided ICBM warhead can hit within a mile or so of its aim point using only inertial guidance, which is sufficient to destroy a city, but to effectively knock out such things as buried silos or deep bunkers sat-nav assistance is required.

I think I remember reading that most ICBMs can use celestial navigation (plus probably a few things never un-top-secreted) as well - probably useful if the enemy has a respectable anti-satellite capability.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: INS/GPS aren't the only options

Useful so long as you have clear skies.

Pick yourself up a "cheap" (relative term) telescope that does auto-aligning. We've had them since the days of the BBC Micro and some are able to digitally view the image through the scope, find stars, recognise them, track them and align the telescope automatically. You don't even need a modern CCD, like I say, they had them back in the days of BBC Micros and video digitisers. Many of the cheap ones do it via GPS because it's just not worth the hassle, but the older / more expensive ones actually use the constellations.

Now do it on a cloudy night. You're stuffed. You can pay a lot of money and you're still stuffed. And one of the first things you have to do is give it some indication of where on the Earth you are because without that, it makes things a little more difficult. Probably great for when you're above the clouds and trying to find a Middle East country, useless for anything when you come below cloud cover or near to your target (i.e. within 100 miles). Not to mention that you have to keep a sensitive camera pointed at the sky all the time from your ICBM which is a difficult but not insurmountable task in itself.

I reckon it may well be used in combination with other things, but you really can't beat a decent GPS signal for the last stretch. The only thing about astronavigation is that generally your enemies can't control / block the weather any more than you can.

And in terms of accuracy, I'm not sure I'd want the error from software recognising constellations through a CCD in a warhead. Certainly not if you want to pinpoint-bomb something like a bunker. Think how well your computer recognises QR codes or shops recognise barcodes "first time", and then strip out all of the error correction inherent in the system (stars in the sky are not arranged modulo 13, or have an ECC built into their patterning).

1
0
Coat

Re: INS/GPS aren't the only options

Well yes, but I'm not sure if cloud cover is relevant when considering a re-entry vehicle travelling at a few km/s - the amount of time it spends under the clouds probably isn't long enough to make any meaningful course change anyway.

Hmm, I'm making what might be a baseless assumption here, so I should maybe calculate it.

Assume the clouds stop at 20km (i.e. high CB, ignoring the noctilucent ones, etc.)

Assume a 45° downwards trajectory (this seems to vary between 10° and 60°).

That's ~30km to travel.

Ignoring deceleration (I know, I know...), this gives something between 5s and 10s.

Huh. Guess there would be time to do a bit of a course change there.

Maybe Saddam's idea of using smoke from crude oil fires wasn't such a bad one.

0
0

Re: INS/GPS aren't the only options

The article is inaccurate - missiles don't use GPS because it's too easily knocked out. The missiles use inertial guidance + start seekers.

The original TRANSIT system back in the 60s was for submarines to find their position accurately.

0
0

Re: INS/GPS aren't the only options

Once a missile is launched, it's going to well above any cloud, so it can still use its starseekers.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: INS/GPS aren't the only options

GPS is very useful for knowing where your submarine is when you fired the missile - in order to set the INS.

That was the original reason for GPS, and the preceding US Navy satelite system. Having your sub sit on the surface for hours while people try and make enough sextant readings to get a fix was not condusive to health when there were Russian bombers overhead.

Not sure how much use GPS would be for a re-entering missile surrounded by highly heated and partly ionised atmosphere

0
0
Trollface

Re: INS/GPS aren't the only options

I believe it's important that France has a credible first strike capability against US military targets, otherwise what's to prevent the US invading a newly independent Quebec to secure its energy supply?

0
0
Bronze badge

Does the EU have the balls to do what Russia has done?

Russia have put a huge tax on imports of GPS enabled kit that doesn't support Glonass.

Does anybody know if the EU plans to do a similar thing with Galileo?

4
0
Silver badge

French nukes?

I'd much rather UK signed up to the Force de Frappe than Trident. Especially since it offers the possibility of a caffeine-themed nuclear arsenal.

"Here comes your double espresso!"

2
3

"As many Reg readers will be well aware, the encrypted Galileo signal is its version of the encrypted military-users-only signal offered by America's GPS. "

That signal has been around for *decades* - and I've never quite understood how it's managed to remain secure for so long. Surely it isn't beyond the wit of some clever people in, say, China to reverse engineer the thing and flood the market with civilian equipment capable of receiving the encrypted signal?

2
0
Silver badge

In today's climate ...

... merely asking that question makes you a terrorist.

1
1
Anonymous Coward

"Surely it isn't beyond the wit of some clever people in, say, China to reverse engineer the thing"

It isn't just about reverse engineering, it is about cracking an (apparently) well designed modern stream cipher and then work out what to do with the long pseudorandom sequence that comes out (and even identify that you've actually cracked it in the first place). That's a tall order even for a rich nation state with lots of clever folk available to work on the challenge.

On the other hand, people can and do make DGPS devices that are almost as good as military GPS systems for some purposes (such as surveying), and there are devices that operate at high speeds and altitudes which are classified as munitions in the US yet can be purchased elsewhere.

1
0
Bronze badge

Re: In today's climate ...

And mentioning "climate" puts you on another watch list. Oops. Now I'm on it :(

0
0

"Surely it isn't beyond the wit of some clever people in, say, China to reverse engineer the thing and flood the market with civilian equipment capable of receiving the encrypted signal?"

The encryption key changes every day, to thwart this, and to make any milspec GPS units that go 'walkies' useless.

0
0

OK… so how is that new key distributed?

Do you have marines in a cave in Afghanistan saying 'bugger, we can't navigate today; the mail hasn't been delivered'?

I can believe they use some kind of session or rotating key system, but there must be an underlying algorithm to generate and verify it...

0
0
Mushroom

Jitter

For a long time the civilian GPS signals has a deliberate jitter which reduced the accuracy even further. This was turned off in the mid 90's, I think. Apparently the latest satellites don't have this feature in them.

As for hacking the Military signals (even by a Nation) is very difficult, as despite all their flaws, they do have some clever Boffins who are very good a crypto.

(Icon chosen for it's relevance to the application of GPS.)

0
0
Silver badge

Non-nuclear missiles, surely?

I would have thought that civilian-grade accuracy was plenty with respect to dropping a nuke near enough to its target. Military precision GPS has more to do with flying a conventional or cruise missile through a single specified door or window!

0
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Non-nuclear missiles, surely?

That reminds me of a Doonesbury cartoon from 20+ years ago where, by using gps navigation, the cruise missle was able to cross the desert, enter the building through the window, fly down the stairs and out the far door to hit and destroy the building next door.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.