Technic

European competitor of GPS is struggling with faulty clocks

The European navigation system Galileo is in heavy weather. A number of the extremely precise atomic clocks on board the satellites have stopped.

Some of the accurate atomic clocks on the Galileo satellites fail.

© ESA

Since 1999, the EU and ESA have been trying to get a global navigation system off the ground to compete with the US GPS system.

The European system, Galileo, came into operation in December 2016, but encountered major difficulties a month later.

The satellites that record your position are equipped with extremely precise atomic clocks. And they are just putting a spoke in the wheel of this project: a number of them no longer work.

Experts think along

Each satellite has four atomic clocks on board, but on some satellites only three still work. One satellite even has only two functioning clocks.

This is a serious problem because the clocks ensure that the system knows where you are.

In a press release, ESA writes that the organization cooperates with a number of producers of timepieces and satellites to find out the cause of the problem. However, it has not been found so far.

ESA is considering delay

To date, ESA has put 18 of 30 planned Galileo satellites into circulation. The organization is considering postponing the launch of the remaining satellites.

With 18 satellites, the system is operational, but still depends on cooperation with the GPS satellites. Only when the last 12 have been launched can the system handle it itself.

In principle, every satellite needs only one working clock, but ESA fears that eventually all clocks will fail.

Video: European Travel Skills with Rick Steves (November 2019).

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