Russian global positioning satellites:

Russia's Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) global positioning satellite GPS
A Russian Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) global positioning satellite

Russia's Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) is a network of navigation satellites in orbit – a global positioning system – like the American and European GPS networks.

GLONASS is operated by the Russian Space Forces. The system uses radio time signals to locate people and vehicles on and above the surface of Earth.

History. In 1982, the former USSR matched America's NAVSTARs with a new generation of high-flying navigation satellites when it launched the test satellites Cosmos-1413, Cosmos-1414 and Cosmos-1415 on one rocket to start GLONASS.

The first operational satellites went into service in December 1983. Russia continued building the GLONASS system after the old Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s. The system was in full operation in December 1995.

New generation coming. Unfortunately, a poor national economic situation after the fall of the Soviet Union left Russia with only eight GLONASS satellites in operation by 2002. Economic conditions improved and 11 satellites were in operation in 2004. A total of 14 were in orbit at the end of 2005.

Russia is improving the navigation satellite. The satellites usually are launched by Russia from its Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. However, India will launch two GLONASS-M satellites for Russia on its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rockets. India launches space rockets from Sriharikota Island off the nation's east coast state of Andhra Pradesh.

Like the U.S. and European GPS networks, the complete GLONASS constellation was, and again in the future will be, 24 satellites. That would include 21 operating in three circular orbital planes, and three satellites standing by on orbit as backup spares.

Russia has said it plans to have the system operational by 2008 with 18 satellites covering all of Russia. A complete constellation of 24 satellites with full global coverage is planned by 2010.

Then the M and K satellites will be able to locate Russia's military and civilian consumers worldwide with greater accuracy.

See:    U.S. NAVSTAR GPS »      Europe's Galileo GPS »

How it works. GLONASS is a system similar to the U.S. GPS network. GLONASS satellites work much the same as the U.S. NAVSTARs, including flying nearly 12,000 miles above Earth and transmitting on two frequencies in the 1200-1600 MHz range.

The GLONASS constellation orbits Earth at an altitude of about 11,868 miles (19,100 km), a bit lower than the U.S. GPS satellites.

Each satellite completes a trip around Earth every 11 hours 15 minutes. They are spaced in orbit so a user on the ground can see at least five satellites at any time.

GLONASS satellites transmit precision (SP) and high precision (HP) signals at a frequency around 1.6 GHz.

The system offers a standard C/A positioning and timing service giving horizontal position accuracy within 180 feet (55 meters) and vertical position within 230 feet (70 meters) based on measurements from four satellite signals. P is a more accurate signal for Russian military use.

There are very few inexpensive GLONASS-only receivers for consumers on the market. However, commercial GPS receivers often are capable of receiving both NAVSTAR and GLONASS data.

This GLONASS system provides accuracy that is better than GPS with SA on and worse than GPS with SA off.

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