back to article How do you solve a problem like Galileo? With a strap-on L-band payload, of course!

Rejoice, Brexit Galileo worriers! Your hand-wringing is at an end thanks to research by Brighton-based Professor Chris Chatwin and Dr Lasisi S Lawal of Nigeria's Obasanjo Space Center. Kind of. How we got here Depending on your take on the situation, Blighty was either booted out of, or walked away from, the EU's satellite …

  1. nematoad Silver badge
    Happy

    But since when has logic featured in the arguments over Brexit?

    FTFY

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      But since when has logic featured in the arguments over Brexit Government's thinking?

      FTFY

  2. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Coat

    Hirzon angles??

    Part of the reason why a sat nav system has so many birds is to retain accuracy in areas with a restricted view of the sky eg cities valleys etc.

    As such I am really curious as to what the availability of this system is in the field given that are proposing only 3 satellites to cover the whole globe.

    1. Vulch
      Mushroom

      Re: Hirzon angles??

      Incoming munitions tend to have quite a good view of the sky, by the time they get to cities it's boom time...

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Hirzon angles??

      No, just the part of it that the UK sits on. Brexit means Brexit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hirzon angles??

        "Brexit means Brexit."

        Judging by the downvotes I think we can safely say "Brexit means a complete loss of a sense of humour"

        Between our three satellites and a few feet of wall in Cornwall to keep the Mexicans out, we can make a good go of our new found international isolationism.

        Although if everything outside the UK becomes a foe, do we even need expensive satellites to hit our enemies any more? Surely just launching things in the direction of the sea should hit something "enemy"...

    3. Blazde

      Re: Hirzon angles??

      I've got it! Long sticks. GPS/Galileo/BS receivers on long sticks. Sticks are cheap and they could be telescopic to cope with different sized valleys and buildings. Each tank could have one, and each platoon could have two in case the soldier holding the first one got killed or got tired.

      Ooh I can really feel the good old fashioned plucky British innovation spirit returning. Hey we could make the sticks from Meccano!

      1. Vulch

        Re: Hirzon angles??

        we could make the sticks from Meccano

        Made in France these days, you'll be needing an import licence.

    4. rg287

      Re: Hirzon angles??

      As such I am really curious as to what the availability of this system is in the field given that are proposing only 3 satellites to cover the whole globe.

      Galileo had two core jobs. One was sovereignty/independence from US GPS, the other was better positioning at higher latitudes, where the GPS orbits were not quite so well optimised.

      One would have to conclude that a geostationary bird (which by its nature is equatorial) is not going to be able to augment the Public/unencrypted Galileo signal at higher latitudes as effectively as it would in say, Abuja (all of 9deg north). To get better coverage of (say) the Outer Hebrides, you'd have to look at some sort of exotic orbits in the style of India's Regional Nav System, which uses 7birds in very elliptical High Earth Orbits to cover India/Indian Ocean.

      But that wouldn't enhance your signal globally (which would likely upset the RN, as well as Army/RAF forces in the Falklands, Diego, etc), just regionally - though I suppose the proposed three Geostat birds in addition to your super-duper Northern-Europe HEO birds would give you pretty good augmentation everywhere that matters.

      The better solution of course is to just apply for PRS access the same as Norway. Seems like at least one person in the EU understands that European Defence and EU Defence are not the same, but are inter-dependent.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hirzon angles??

        And that's why EGNOS is a joke. You can't get much signal from geostationary satellites on a mobile receiver in these northern climes unless you're in an open area. I remember when EGNOS first came online and the GPS receivers I worked with (u-blox, pretty damn good ones) started using the augmentation data, the end result of which was to make the fix less accurate rather than more. In the end we had to disable augmentation in the receivers.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Hirzon angles??

        It's very disappointing that they went for the EGNOS acronym. If they'd replaced that "Service" at the end with something like "Guidance" we'd have EGNOG.

        Some people have no imagination.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Hirzon angles??

          we'd have EGNOG

          [Shudder]. No thanks. T'missus insists on drinking something called "a snowball" which, to me, looks like someone has put snot in a glass, added yellow food colouring and then topped it up with lemonade.

          I'll stick to my cider. And single malts. And gin.

    5. FlossyThePig

      Re: Hirzon angles??

      ...only 3 satellites to cover the whole globe...

      Somebody told them about Arthur C Clarke's 1945 proposal for geostationary satellite communications.

    6. Mage Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Hirzon angles??

      Also Geostationary is MUCH further away. Inverse Square Law is not your friend.

      It might be handy for a missile launcher to initialise the inertial guidance on the missile. Not much use for tracking "prisoners" or cars.

    7. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Hirzon angles??

      The early GPS plan back in the '70's was for only 3 birds, as I recall. They quickly found out about coverage being restricted by all sorts of things on the ground like cities and terrain. I suspect that the people proposing this might have access to the early plans and other paperwork. Having worked some on this back then, I don't remember what the timeline was for de-classification.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hirzon angles??

        Even without considering line of sight issues, how would 3 birds work for GPS? you need to see a minimum of four satellites at once to get a location fix.

        1. Is It Me

          Re: Hirzon angles??

          This is so they get an additional signal in addition to the GPS/Galileo signals.

          The ideal is that the additional signal is enough to increase the accuracy.

          How that is supposed to work without line of sight to the geostationary satellite (as mentioned above) is the question.

      2. Hotears

        Re: Hirzon angles??

        With GPS, they knew from the start that four satellites in view would be required, three if the receiver had a good atomic clock. The system preceding Navstar-GPS was Transit; That one, with three satellites, was fine to provide daily position updates to your handy battleship or nuclear sub. The rest could be - and still can be - handled with inertial navigation.

        I did get a navigation fix back when only four Galileo sats were usable. I also just managed to build a receiver and get a fix before Loran was crippled. There are a few ways to build a navigation system, but if it isn't really expensive, it's not politically hot, so forget about those solutions.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chris Grayling

    in Space!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chris Grayling

      We can only hope. Can't we dust off that recently abandoned one way Mars mission? Tell him that it's pleb free and crying out for privatisation of its public services. Just think how much better Opportunity would have been if we could have had it run by Carillion?

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Chris Grayling

      Can we send the rest of the government up there too?

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Andy Non
    Joke

    Nigeria has offered further assistance

    upon receipt of an administration fee paid via Western Union.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternative arrangements

    Can't but see the analogies here. Create a problem totally of your own volition. 2. Realise there are downsides. 3. Propose a vague solution citing 'alternative technical arrangements' that doesn't actually address the problem at all.

    This is hardly innovative or new is it? Even the 'piggy back' idea was used by ESA from the outset. It doesn't offer more independence from other peoples sat-navs so we can't use it to bomb Brussels. And what do we gain? I guess it makes self driving cars slightly easier - but those are now going to drive themselves off the RoRo ferries, without even the pretence that bolting in a seat and attaching number plates meant 'great British auto industry'.

    Given that our own' space industry is never going to be able to compete with the grown ups, I wish we would concentrate public money on doing the important and fun things - earth observation satellites to fill the Trumpian holes and planting flags on other planets. We would spend as much money, support as much industry, but actually achieve something positive in return.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Alternative arrangements

      Given that our own' space industry is never going to be able to compete with the grown ups,

      Errrr...a vast percentage of satellites orbiting the Earth are made in the UK

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Alternative arrangements

        Not trying to disparage our industry - but without a way of chucking the things in the sky we can't claim to be playing in the top leagues. Can we claim Virgin Galactic as British? Do tax havens count?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Alternative arrangements

          A launch capability is only a part of the space industry overall. Just because you don't have a significant presence in one aspect of something, it doesn't mean you have to be an irrelevance in the overall piece.

          (by similar logic, would you argue that the USA has had its day so far as manned spaceflight goes? They're largely beholden to the Russians to get people aloft to ISS)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Alternative arrangements

            "would you argue that the USA has had its day so far as manned spaceflight goes?"

            Yes. Yes, I would.They don't know whether they want to be in orbit, go to the moon, Mars or asteroids and, as a result, will almost certainly manage to do none of those things. I'm not criticising NASA or the engineers and scientists - they are top people - but the anti-science, trumpist-fantasy culture in which they are forced to operate.

            Taikonauts are where manned spaceflight is going. They have an aim, motivation and focus.

            YMMV.

            1. rg287

              Re: Alternative arrangements

              Yes. Yes, I would.They don't know whether they want to be in orbit, go to the moon, Mars or asteroids and, as a result, will almost certainly manage to do none of those things.

              A fair assessment of US Government-funded Spaceflight.

              Not perhaps of the private sector which has got sick of waiting on the politicians and is busy doing it themselves (c.f. SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab. Actually even ULA's Vulcan will do good stuff, albeit half a generation behind SX/BO).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Alternative arrangements

                "Not perhaps of the private sector"

                A fair rejoinder and I may be under-estimating their ability, will and funding.

                I still think, if I was a betting man, I would wager on the Chinese reaching Mars with a manned vehicle before them but you are quite correct that is not, by some way, the slam-dunk I envisage compared to NASA.

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    when has spending money on a Nigerian scheme ever gone wrong

    Dear Mr Grayling

    I have been requested by the Nigerian Space Agency to contact you for assistance in resolving the matter of access to GPS. The Nigerian Space has recently acquired a satellite onto which a GPS alternative could be placed. Unfortunately due to international restrictions, we cannot help you until funding has been made available. Please to facilitate this wire £100 million to the attached agency back account, and we will launch your new GPS system for you

    Yours Faithfully

    Prince Boateng III (Acting head of NSA)

    P.S My brother also owns are large number of RORO ferries. I would be please to make these available for another £100 million

    1. RuffianXion

      Re: when has spending money on a Nigerian scheme ever gone wrong

      Sorry, I easily can tell this is a fake scam; there are too few spelling and grammar mistakes.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: when has spending money on a Nigerian scheme ever gone wrong

        Also it should be "Please to facilitate this wire £100 million (ONE HUNDRED MILLION)"

    2. MAF

      Re: when has spending money on a Nigerian scheme ever gone wrong

      Also he will never bite as they actually HAVE a satellite. He's only interested in splurging tax-payers money on companies/orgs that don't actually have any assets...

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: when has spending money on a Nigerian scheme ever gone wrong

      >P.S My brother also owns are large number of RORO ferries. I would be please to make these available for another £100 million

      That's your problem. Only companies who own zero RORO ferries are eligible for £100 million government contracts

  8. john.jones.name
    WTF?

    Bent Pipe ?

    why not utilise a bent pipe to effectively use SBAS ?

  9. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Harumph. Away with all this satellite malarkey....

    Put the transmitters on the ground so that when they go wrong (see El Reg passim) you can send a fat bloke in a van to fix them. It's called eLoRaN. It can be just as accurate and available as all this monkeying around in space.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Harumph. Away with all this satellite malarkey....

      Unfortunately Johnny foreigner tends to object to you installing transmitters around his capital city immediately before you bomb it.

      So it becomes necessary to make the vans rather more robust (with armour and tracks and big guns).

      Once you have gained sufficient on-the-ground control to install the e-loran system at your target it seems rather churlish to then drop precision guided munitions on it.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Harumph. Away with all this satellite malarkey....

      I came here to say pretty much the same thing. Fair Albion (& ancillary islands) is small enough that it would probably cost less in total than a single satellite launch!

      As for military targeting, just use the US system for that. All y'all have been our lackys in that regard for decades anyway, so no real change ... and more savings! A couple billion quid here, a couple billion there, and pretty soon you're saving REAL money!

    3. Spiracle

      Re: Harumph. Away with all this satellite malarkey....

      Put the transmitters on the ground

      Flatnav?

  10. Cuddles Silver badge

    Repeating nonsense doesn't make it true

    "it does attempt to address concerns that the loss of access to the PRS could lead to lower accuracy"

    I'm sure I've said this before, but no such concerns exist. The Commercial Navigation signal provides exactly the same accuracy as the Public Regulated Service signal. The only difference between the two is that the Commerical signal could in theory be switched off. Despite this nonsense being constantly brought up by Brexiters to try to portray the EU as totally unreasonable and cutting us off from vital security services, the fact is that even if we're unwilling to negotiate a sensible deal, we can simply pay for normal commercial access. As long as the French don't decide to invade, the difference between Commerical and PRS is non-existent.

    It's also worth noting that accuracy is a fairly pointless thing to be worrying about in the first place. The normal, unencrypted signals for both Galileo and GPS give accuracy of about 1m. There are very few applications where improving that down to 1cm makes any meaningful difference. In particular, things like steering warships and targetting missiles absolutely do not depend on cm level accuracy. Even if we were cut off from everything and stuck using the open access signal, there would be precisely zero impact anything related to military or national security. Those might be great buzzwords to shout about to get people riled up, but they have nothing whatsoever to do with the Galileo Brexit shenanigans.

  11. Measurer

    '...estimating it at between £3bn and £5bn. We'd bet it'll be nearer the latter than the former. It's only a matter of time before Chris Grayling is put in charge, after all.'

    Ho, Ho, Ho that it will fall below even the upper bounding value

    1. jake Silver badge

      Indeed.

      Any .gov project will end up costing at least 4 times the original upper bound ... It's been this way since time immemorial.

  12. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    Only 3 satelites?

    Inmarsat provides a perfectly servicable global comms network with just 3 satelites

    they recently added a fourth and are launching a fifth sometime soon

    1. Spherical Cow

      Re: Only 3 satelites?

      Comms is different from positioning.

  13. Justthefacts

    Well, if you’re going to do that.....

    There’s a much cheaper option.

    The navigation signal doesn’t need to be located on the geo satellite. There are loads of telecom satellites already up there physically capable of digital flexible routing to transmit a signal at L-band nav frequencies if allowed by regulators. Inmarsat can, for example, among others.

    The signal can be transmitted from the ground station up, and routed downwards into the global (or regional) beam. The complication is only that the satellite wanders about, which needs to be compensated in the signal. That’s hardly rocket science :)

    Cost is maybe ten million to develop the ground signal generator, and a few million a year to rent the transponder from satellite network operator.

  14. DougS Silver badge

    If geostationary worked so well

    Why is everyone using large constellations of LEO satellites to provide positioning? The problem with geosynchronous is that it isn't a stable orbit since the Earth isn't perfectly round, so the satellites move in a little figure 8 pattern (analemma) and occasionally need little corrections due to "space weather". The orbits of LEO satellites aren't perfectly stable either (changes in the Van Allen belts can induce a bit of extra drag that needs to be compensated for) but aside from that their orbit is easy to calculate and predict than geo. And they are MUCH closer, meaning the receiver's clock can be less accurate and still get good results.

    Maybe the chip scale atomic clocks would overcome these concerns and allow geo satellites to perform this role. If so it would be easier to piggyback this functionality onto a geo satellite that is soon to launch - or better yet just require everyone who launches one under the UK flag to include the functionality, so you have plenty of redundancy making it more difficult for an enemy to knock you out.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: If geostationary worked so well

      The GSO satelites don't provide navigation in themselves. the problem with GSO, apart from it being a jolly long way away and so needing rather beefy signals, is that the satelites are all in a line so the position solution is rather crap.

      This proposal, like WAIS and EGNOS, simply rebroadcast extra information (time and correction) sent from the ground, to all the users of the regular system to improve their position. Not to mention confidence in the position, the original driver for WAIS was the FAA wanting to replace ground beacons but wanting aircraft to have some way of detecting GSP errors

      You can do a much better job sending corrections from the ground with more locality, but the advantage of GSO is that a single satelite broadcast can cover a big chunk of the continent.

  15. Louis Schreurs BEng

    BS

    Well, BS!

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