GLONASS’s immense budget to crack American GPS

Russia is to spend $11 billion on its brand new GLONASS navigation system, hoping to make it as good as American rival GPS.

The plan is to cover the whole planet with GLONASS, which requires more satellites to be launched. This year alone, seven of them are scheduled to reach the Earth’s orbit.

The developers also hope to narrow the satellite’s precision from two meters to seventy-eighty centimeters.

“Currently, GPS is a bit better,” Vitaly Poltoratsky, head of System Solutions Department at M2M Telematics, told RT. “The development of the GLONASS satellite group and more sophisticated devices on the ground will enable the system to be fully competitive by 2015.”

Despite optimistic forecasts, GLONASS system has encountered numerous problems since it was launched. In December 2010, three satellites did not manage to reach orbit, which cost the Russian Space Agency billions in damages and the head of the agency his position.

The increased cash injection is expected to help the specialists prevent such episodes.

The GLONASS program was launched in the mid-1970s and was fully operational in 1995, just two years behind the American GPS. However, by 2001 there were only six satellites left from the minimum 24 that are necessary, and while GPS receivers were used in air carriers to civilian airliners to every car and smart phone, GLONASS was trying to fund a replacement.

Since then, Russia has developed the second generation of satellites for the system named GLONASS-M.

Compared to the outdated version, it lasts much longer (seven years against three, which explains how the system degraded so fast in the first place), is 40 per cent more powerful and allows for better accuracy. The first prototypes of the GLONASS-M were tested in space in 2003, while the first “true” second-generation satellite was launched in 2005.

At the moment, Russia is testing an even better version, GLONASS-K, with the first satellite already in orbit. The third generation is being developed to be compatible with GPS and the future European Galileo navigation.

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