Russian Global Navigation System, GLONASS, Falling Short

The GLONASS system's accuracy, reliability, and consumer appeal are in question

5 min read

14 February 2008—Earlier this month, Russia activated its latest set of GLONASS satellites, a homegrown competitor to GPS. The government says that with the new satellites, the country’s global navigation system officially covers 95 percent of the country and 83 percent of the world—although independent experts put the real figures closer to 70 percent and 50 to 60 percent, respectively. Six more satellites are scheduled for launch at the end of this year. But all is not well with the Russian global navigation system.

GLONASS has come under stunning attack by none other than Russia’s first vice premier, Sergey Ivanov. Late in January, after issuing positive assurances for months, he suddenly declared that the system was inadequate and that those in charge had to pay. His complaints are that there are too few receivers available to consumers, that the accuracy is poor compared to that of GPS, that digital maps of sufficient detail and accuracy to match the GLONASS signal don’t exist, and that the in-orbit lifetime of individual satellites is so brief that their replacement rate is beyond the capability of the Russian rocket industry.

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Top Tech 2023: A Special Report

These two dozen technical projects should make significant advances in the coming year

2 min read
Top Tech 2023: A Special Report
Edmon DeHaro

Each January, the editors of IEEE Spectrum offer up some predictions about technical developments we expect to be in the news over the coming year. You’ll find a couple dozen of those described in the following special report. Of course, the number of things we could have written about is far higher, so we had to be selective in picking which projects to feature. And we’re not ashamed to admit, gee-whiz appeal often shaped our choices.

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