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Mon, Apr 09, 2007

Russia Aims For The Stars To Rival US GPS

GLONASS Will Use Cold-War Technology

It appears are the skies ARE getting more crowded... not with swarms of VLJs, but rather satellites designed to assist in global positioning system (GPS) navigation. Soon, US-designed GPS satellites and Europe's developing Galileo system will face a new rival in orbit: GLONASS.

Reuters reports Russia aims to launch GLONASS -- short for Global Navigation Satellite System -- as a direct competitor to the other two GPS systems. The technology will derive from the former Soviet Union's Cold War-era plans to deploy the system to assist ground troops.

Even after the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, worked continued on the GLONASS program... but a sharp downturn in the Russian economy in the late 1990s stalled its development.

"We are planning to deliver all sorts of devices already available on GPS," said Alexander Gurko, chairman of Dublin, Ireland-based M2M Telematics, which is leading development of GLONASS. "From next year we will start producing a consumer product from GLONASS."

Alongside Gurko at the Monday press briefing was Yuri Nosenko -- deputy head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos -- as well as other GLONASS project leaders. Resurgence in the program has been trumpeted by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, buoyed by heady oil revenues and a surge in nationalist pride in Russia.

Yuri Urchich, head of the Russian institute of space equipment engineering, said customers worldwide will be receptive to a third choice for satellite navigation.

"Consumers don't care whether its GPS, GLONASS or Galileo, they just want a signal," said Urchich.

GLONASS already covers Russia, as well as surrounding former Russian republics. More satellites will be launched this year, Gurko said, with the goal being worldwide coverage by a total of 24 satellites by 2009. India has signed an agreement with Russia to aid in development of the program.

Russian technology leaders state GLONASS isn't meant to rival GPS or Galileo, per se... but rather provide a backup system, and extra security. There are also some bugs still to be worked out of the system.

"Of course there are problems," Nosenko said. "Some of them have a certain history, some of them are new, but they are all being discussed candidly."

The United States' GPS system has been available to non-military users since 1993. As Aero-News has reported, the European Union hopes to have Galileo fully deployed and operational by 2011... and China is working on its own GPS system, Beidou, as well.

FMI: www.m2mtelematics.net, www.federalspace.ru/index.asp?Lang=ENG

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