Sunday, December 30, 2007

Russia Launches GPS System

Vladimir Putin used his dog as a prop to tout the completion of Russia’s global positioning satellite system, GLONASS. The launch of three satellites earlier this week meant that the system now covers the entire Russian Federation. Putin suggested he would buy a collar for his black lab, Connie, so that she would not run away.

The GLONASS system was first completed in 1995. For global positioning systems to work, a receiver on Earth needs to be in contact with a number of orbiting satellites. Because of the poor economic conditions in Russia in the 1990s, the Russians were not able to replace GLONASS satellites as they reached the end of their operational lives and the system soon did not have enough satellites in orbit to function.

Russia now has 18 GLONASS satellites in orbit, enough to provide service to the entire country. By 2010, Russia plans to launch 6 additional satellites, extending coverage anywhere in the world.

Global positioning satellite service has long been dominated by the American-run GPS system. In addition to GLONASS, the European Union (with support from China) is establishing their own GPS system, Galileo, which they hope to have operational by 2013.
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