Case Study: European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System

This case study describes the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) as well as the development by Logica of one of the most critical elements of EGNOS, the Integrity Processing Facility (IPF). It also explains the selection and deployment of Wind River’s VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS) for the safety-critical EGNOS IPF to fulfil Logica’s design challenges. By Paul Parkinson, Senior Systems Architect, Aerospace and Defence, Wind River.


The U.S. GPS and Russian Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) provide positional accuracy of around 20 metres, which has enabled them to be used for a wide range of military and civil navigation purposes. However, this degree of accuracy is not suitable for safety-critical applications such as aircraft in-flight navigation and landing approach, or even ships navigating through narrow channels.

As the skies, shipping lanes, and even rail networks become increasingly crowded, high-precision satellite navigation systems are required to increase the capacity of these networks whilst maintaining safety, enabling efficient routing, minimising energy consumption, and reducing carbon footprint.

The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) is designed to improve the accuracy of existing military satellite navigation systems by augmenting them to make them suitable for safety-critical applications. It has been developed in Europe as a joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Commission (EC), and Eurocontrol and implements the first stage of the global navigation satellite system (GNSS). EGNOS is a precursor to Galileo, the full global satellite navigation system under development in Europe.

Designing for High-Integrity Operation

EGNOS consists of three geostationary satellites and a network of ground stations and transmits a signal containing information on the reliability and accuracy of the positioning signals sent out by GPS and GLONASS. It allows users in Europe and beyond to determine their positions to within two metres, compared to around 20 metres for GPS and GLONASS alone.

The three satellites consist of two Inmarsat-3 satellites, one over the eastern part of the Atlantic and one over the Indian Ocean, and the ESA Artemis satellite over Africa. These send out a ranging signal similar to that transmitted by the GPS and GLONASS satellites, except that the EGNOS signal is also modulated with integrity information about the position of each GPS and GLONASS satellite, the accuracy of their on-board atomic clocks, and information about disturbances within the ionosphere which might affect the accuracy of positioning measurements.

The EGNOS signal is actually calculated by a sophisticated ground segment comprising 34 ranging and integrity monitoring stations (RIMS) which measure the position of each EGNOS satellite and compare accurate measurements of each GPS and GLONASS satellite with measurements obtained from the satellites’ signals. The ground segment determines the accuracy of GPS and GLONASS signals received at each station, and this information is incorporated into the EGNOS signal and is broadcast to the EGNOS satellites via uplinks which in turn transmit via transponders. The EGNOS Integrity Processing Facility (IPF) developed by Logica is the critical element which validates the information broadcast by the satellites to safety-critical users.

The Role of Software

The EGNOS IPF software processes the messages from RIMS and checks the validity of the messages prior to broadcast and calculates the worst possible error that would be observed in an area if one satellite stopped transmitting. The EGNOS IPF must perform these checks to a high degree of accuracy and within hard real-time deadlines. In addition, because the output of the EGNOS IPF is relied upon in safety-critical applications, it must be safety-certified to the joint avionics software safety standards RTCA DO-178B and EUROCAE ED-12B at Level B; this is where a failure condition is deemed by the standards to be “hazardous/severe” and could result in “some loss of life.”

Development Challenges

The EGNOS IPF project faced a number of significant development challenges, as the system needed to perform processing in hard real-time using TCP/IP-based communication. In addition, the project was awarded in phases, with separate contracts for the development of the initial operating capability only supporting noncritical applications and for the safety-certification of the system. Following, these development challenges are considered in turn.

Challenge 1: Hard Real-Time Performance with TCP/IP Networking

The EGNOS IPF needs to meet hard real-time processing requirements and use TCP/IP networking. Logica wanted to undertake development of the EGNOS IPF using a proven hard real-time operating system (RTOS) and provide the ability to customise the networking capability to EGNOS’s specific requirements. Logica was able to achieve this using Wind River’s VxWorks RTOS and its configurable network stack.

Logica was also able to perform analysis of the real-time behaviour of the EGNOS IPF using the Wind River System Viewer, which provided confirmation that the system was meeting its real-time requirements. Using this approach aided their understanding of the real-time behaviour of the system and enabled them to diagnose and debug problems more rapidly than through debugging alone.

Challenge 2: Lack of Available Hardware

During the development phase, the EGNOS IPF target hardware was not always available, but the developers needed to meet development milestone dates. Logica was able to exploit some of the unique capabilities of the Wind River development suite to provide increased productivity. In particular, they were able to use the VxWorks Simulator (VxSim), which simulates the behaviour of the VxWorks kernel and APIs while running on a Windows or Solaris host platform, and continue functionality testing without target hardware, enabling them to meet their development milestones.

Challenge 3: Designing for Future Safety Certification

The development contract for the initial operating capability was only to support noncritical applications, and the contract for the safety certification of the system was awarded separately by ESA. Therefore, Logica needed to undertake development of the EGNOS IPF using a hard real-time operating system which had a clear path to safety certification, which could be exploited in the second phase.

Logica undertook the development on VxWorks but restricted their applications use of VxWorks system calls to the safety-critical subset API. This enabled them to perform development, integration, and testing using VxWorks during the development phase and would enable them to rebuild their applications using the certified version of VxWorks during the safety-certification phase without having to change their application.

Challenge 4: Safety Certification on Dissimilar Processor Architectures

The EGNOS IPF also needed to meet system requirements for high availability, specifically whereby a single hardware failure would not interrupt the availability of the system. In order to meet this requirement, the EGNOS IPF uses a dual-redundant architecture with dissimilar processor architectures so that a single processor-level fault or error will not interrupt the availability of the system. VxWorks had already undergone safety certification on PowerPC processor architectures, but in order to meet the dissimilar processor architecture requirements, Wind River undertook the DO-178B safety-certification of VxWorks and DO-178B network stack on Intel IA-32 architecture.

Logica was then able to retest the EGNOS IPF to confirm that the functional operation was correct and the performance requirements were met; and Logica was able to incorporate the VxWorks DO-178B safety certification evidence into its system safety case for presentation to the certification authorities.

This project illustrates very well how it is possible to conduct development and safety certification in a phased approach using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software and, by developing to the VxWorks safety-critical subset API, how an application can be migrated to certifiable VxWorks without needing to be rewritten.

Paul Parkinson is a senior systems architect with Wind River, working with customers in the aerospace and defence sectors in the UK and across EMEA. Paul’s professional interests include Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA), Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition Reconnaissance (ISTAR) systems, and information security (InfoSec). Paul blogs on A&D industry issues on the Wind River website.


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