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Russia's GLONASS navigation satellites will compete directly with the U.S.-owned GPS navigation system and eventually the E.U. Galileo constellation.
The space race against the former USSR may be heating up all over again.

This time, the target is not the moon, but the United States' virtual monopoly on terrestrial navigation based on satellite coordinates.

The New York Times reports that Russia's space agency is preparing to launch a constellation of eight satellites that will nearly complete a system designed to compete directly with the existing global positioning system technology of the United States.

Russia's system, called GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), is expected to begin operations over Russian territory later this year, followed by coverage of adjacent parts of Europe and Asia. The system is intended to offer global navigation signals by 2009. Russia is not alone in its efforts to wrest control of the satellite navigation industry from the United States. While Russia is the front runner among other nations, China has already launched satellites for its own Baidu system. The European Union's Galileo positioning system is still in the planning stages, having hit a snag with its private contractors over potential profits.

Russian military officials have stated that the rationale behind the GLONASS system goes beyond commercial considerations. By controlling the only fully operational satellite navigation system in existence today, the United States holds a strategic advantage in times of conflict, according to the officials. In theory, the United States could deny GPS navigation signals to countries with which it has a dispute. Such actions could affect industries as diverse as agriculture, oil production and banking, to say nothing of military operations.

For the most part, the Russian system promises to be functionally equivalent to the existing GPS system. However, it could be more accurate than GPS in regions where Russia has better access to terrestrial navigation aids. Some companies are already designing dual-chip navigation devices that support both systems.

However, both the EU and U.S. will challenge Russia for next-generation satellite navigation coverage.   The European Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System is scheduled to come online in 2011 with higher precision than the existing GPS and GLONASS networks. However, delays put the Galileo project more than four years off schedule and counting.

The U.S. brought its GPS constellation online in 1995.  Congress approved funding to modernize the protocol 2000, dubbed GPS III.  This included bringing new civilian and military navigation channels online, as well as a "Saftey of Life" signal anticipated to come online next year.  Portions of this next-generation GPS are already functional, including the L2C civilian signal.

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Space war?
By kiwik on 4/6/2007 12:11:35 PM , Rating: 2
With China, Russia Europe and the USA, is this the beginning of a space control war?

RE: Space war?
By James Holden on 4/6/2007 12:15:42 PM , Rating: 2
If that's the case, then the US won back in 1995.

RE: Space war?
By Oregonian2 on 4/6/2007 2:47:04 PM , Rating: 2
I think this is a crazy slant on things. The press must be warmongers!

It's just that these other countries are 12 or more years behind the U.S. in this particular technology and are finally catching up with the technology. Good for them!

As to accuracy, the biggest problem with my usage isn't the GPS's accuracy, it's probably the availability of maps for where I am (esp. in visits to Eastern Europe).

Availability of these new second generation systems put up by others will be a welcome thing so long as they allow Americans to use it for free just as the U.S. has allowed the rest of the world to use its system for free over the last 12 years -- something paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

RE: Space war?
By aurareturn on 4/6/2007 4:06:31 PM , Rating: 1
We'll lose it if we continue to pour all our money into the "war on terrorism".

RE: Space war?
By TwistyKat on 4/6/2007 4:22:01 PM , Rating: 1
Don't forget the money pit that is the "War on Drugs".

Maybe someday we'll learn to chill out and spend our money on important things, like healthcare for all.

RE: Space war?
By hobbes7869 on 4/6/2007 7:43:37 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, healthcare for all, until some other country decides, "hey they don't have any military left, let take them over!" And we do have healthcare for all, it simply costs money.

RE: Space war?
By dever on 4/7/2007 11:34:04 AM , Rating: 2
You weren't completely out of line until you mentioned healthcare. I'm assuming you actually mean taking money away from one person who works for it and giving it to someone else.

The United States has THE best healthcare system in the world, and this is due to the fact that it is mostly competative. Take away the few free market pressures our current system has, and our healthcare will go to hell in a hand basket.

RE: Space war?
By therealnickdanger on 4/7/2007 3:55:02 PM , Rating: 2
I live in Minnesota and I can't even begin to count the number of uber-wealthy from Europe, Japan, foreign dignitaries, princes and other world figures that have sought medical attention at our own Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

RE: Space war?
By Scrogneugneu on 4/8/2007 2:58:37 AM , Rating: 5
The United States has THE best healthcare system in the world

I don't know if it's true, but what I DO know is that even if it is, it's only available to a very small percentage of the population, due to the very high costs involved.

I prefer the way we have over here. Free for everyone. Getting slightly lower quality health care (but still perfectly acceptable) is way better than getting nothing at all (or selling your house for it).

RE: Space war?
By JoeBanana on 4/6/2007 12:25:19 PM , Rating: 2
I dont think so, but its good that GPS will finaly get some commpetition.

RE: Space war?
By i4mt3hwin on 4/6/2007 12:28:45 PM , Rating: 3
Competition for what? It's not like buying a GPS unit costs monthly. Besides our current GPS can track to like 3 feet or something retarded, who the hell needs more accuracy?

RE: Space war?
By Martin Blank on 4/6/2007 12:49:11 PM , Rating: 2
System price, for one, and availability for another. More systems means more competition to lower prices to sell more units. Also, if one system gets better signals in hard to reach areas, it may gain an edge and lead the other system(s) to improve service.

On a conspiracy note, suppose something happens and the US government gets the idea to knock down civilian GPS accuracy for some reason (and this applies to any US administration, current or future). If the European and Russian systems are available, there's less likelihood that this will occur, because it will be a) pointless and b) damaging to US companies that make GPS receivers.

RE: Space war?
By BMFPitt on 4/6/2007 1:17:24 PM , Rating: 3
There is no price involved. The US and Russian civilian systems are both free. It means nothing to either side whose signal you receive.

There are only 2 reasons for this.
1) To have access to their own more-accurate military signal.
2) To prevent a loss of service in the event of a war, as you noted.

RE: Space war?
By Martin Blank on 4/6/2007 5:01:48 PM , Rating: 2
There is a price involved: the price of the receiver. If GLONASS and Galileo have cheaper receivers that provide substantially the same quality, they will be more desirable in the eyes of the consumers, causing GPS unit prices to drop or services to improve. Wins for the consumer.

RE: Space war?
By BMFPitt on 4/6/2007 5:30:17 PM , Rating: 2
Like how TVs get cheaper when new channels come out?

You're really not thinking this through.

RE: Space war?
By alcalde on 4/6/2007 7:30:48 PM , Rating: 2
If channels were broadcast with stronger signals or a different protocol that required a less-complicated or less power-draining antenna system or signal processor, then yes, it could result in lower-cost tvs. Same with GPS. If reception/processing components/chipsets for the new system(s) cost less than for GPS, then money could be saved.

RE: Space war?
By the1physicist on 4/6/2007 1:20:09 PM , Rating: 2
"who the hell needs more accuracy?"

If you want to use GPS to track the location of cars so computers can drive for us, you need that kind of accuracy.

RE: Space war?
By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 4/6/2007 1:44:37 PM , Rating: 2
Unless someone can make an unblockable signal, I don't think that will ever happen.

Can you imagine the mayhem that one nerd with a transmitter could cause?

RE: Space war?
By FITCamaro on 4/6/2007 1:49:08 PM , Rating: 1
Don't even go there. People are lazy enough. The last thing we need is for computers to start driving for us too.

RE: Space war?
By DigitalFreak on 4/6/2007 2:15:52 PM , Rating: 5
People can't drive for shit. I'd rather have a computer doing it.

RE: Space war?
By Oregonian2 on 4/6/2007 2:36:52 PM , Rating: 1
Wonder what the car equivalent of a Blue-screen would be? I also wonder just how often one has to reboot one's car and what the effect of doing that is when going down the freeway at 65mph?

Also they obviously would be made by law not to allow speeding so cars would be forced to obey speed limits, I'm sure that'll make them all the more popular.

RE: Space war?
By fic2 on 4/6/2007 5:36:44 PM , Rating: 3
Wonder what the car equivalent of a Blue-screen would be?

It is just called death...

RE: Space war?
By Scrogneugneu on 4/8/2007 3:02:10 AM , Rating: 2
Or is it the Red Squash Of Death?

RE: Space war?
By Noya on 4/6/2007 6:18:05 PM , Rating: 3
Also they obviously would be made by law not to allow speeding so cars would be forced to obey speed limits, I'm sure that'll make them all the more popular.

If all automobiles were automated, I'm sure the speed limit would be raised as nearly all accidents are caused by human errors. Not to mention all the cars would be new enough to handle highspeed (100mph) highway cruising. I love to drive, but I would prefer this for the day to day commute.

RE: Space war?
By Oregonian2 on 4/9/2007 5:54:33 PM , Rating: 1
That would only work if ALL cars were replaced 100%. They'd still have to interoperate on the same highways with human drivers for at least 15 years or so.

RE: Space war?
By Cunthor666 on 4/7/2007 2:19:26 AM , Rating: 2
See how your computer fares when two German backpackers ask for a lift to your nearest lingerie store.

RE: Space war?
By Chernobyl68 on 4/6/2007 2:21:37 PM , Rating: 2
Land Surveyors, for one.

RE: Space war?
By AlvinCool on 4/9/2007 8:42:17 AM , Rating: 2
Actually we need much much more accuracy than we currently have. There was an article several years ago that delt with just using a slice of a radio wave instead of the entire sine wave. By doing this it was believed that accuracy of an inch was not just possible but probable.

The first thing, and I know you guys are gonna laugh, that comes to my mind is lawn mowers. If manipulation to an inch is possible electric lawn mowers that mow your yard 3 times a week and plug themselves in when battery is low is easily possible. If the signal is lost it just stops. If we eleminated all gas lawn mowers in the northern hemisphere, which are so gas in-effecient, THAT would make a real dent in green house gases.

ok so this is my first post, rip me to shreds

RE: Space war?
By MrBungle123 on 4/10/2007 11:20:13 AM , Rating: 2
considering that water vapor is by far the most effective green house gas (meaning that overcast skies and high humidity can trap more heat than all of our coal power plants), and that lawn mowers compared to cars (who's effect on global warming is debateable) have insignificantly small engines, and whose frequency of use and time spent running is by comparison miniscule. getting rid of gas powered lawn mowers is going to amount to precisely Jack Shit.

RE: Space war?
By BMFPitt on 4/6/2007 12:33:11 PM , Rating: 2
How is it competition, really? Think of it as a street with a bunch of street lights. The one big house is currently doing all the lighting, and now some other houses are putting up their own just so that one house can't make any part of the street go dark.

The only real difference will be in the encrypted military signals, but that will have no real impact on any of us.

RE: Space war?
By EGGNOG324 on 4/6/2007 3:19:05 PM , Rating: 2
GPS is a locational military & guidance system adopted into the commercial market. In a time of war we wouldn't disable their civilian car GPS maps to say now all your people will have to use a paper map, HAHA USA ROXOR!!! It's the disable GPS for the country so they could not use it to guide missiles, military vehicles, etc.

We have the only GPS system in the world, and want to be the only nation with it so we can deny other nations satellite guidance at will, as needed. GPS guided missiles can be used in all weather conditions more accurately than any other missile type. 3 foot accuracy is typically good enough when you're dropping a heavy bomb.

Competition here is NOT good for us.

You can see how they're good enough if you look at 9/11 where GPS locational devices were used in the buildings beforehand so coordinates could be feed into airplane navigational systems.

This is serious stuff. You have the Russians and the Chinese chipping away at US military dominance. The Chinese can now effectively turn off most of our country's manufacturing (since soon we'll have none) and we wouldn't be able to produce everything we need commercially and militarily. Companies are transferring so much of our technical dominance to China it's sad. It's really bad what's happening.

We need more competitive advantages like our GPS system. Space competition is not good.

RE: Space war?
By BMFPitt on 4/6/2007 3:28:03 PM , Rating: 2
Yes... The terrorists put GPS in the buildings so they'd be able to track them if the buildings tried to run away. Those sneaky terrorists.

RE: Space war?
By Scrogneugneu on 4/8/2007 3:06:06 AM , Rating: 2
In a time of war we wouldn't disable their civilian car GPS maps to say now all your people will have to use a paper map, HAHA USA ROXOR!!!

You know, that particular sentence actually made me laugh out loud.

You just made my day :)

RE: Space war?
By stromgald on 4/6/2007 12:36:16 PM , Rating: 4
This isn't a space war of any kind. Actually it should benefit all of us since new products will tap into both the Russian and US signals for better location determination. The GLONASS system is for everyone to use (at least the public frequencies). It's not so much competition, but adding robustness to the current commercial system and giving the Russian military their own pinpoint location determination system. However, eight satellites seems awfully low for a GPS type system . . . maybe it only covers Russia?

The Galileo program is different since its the EU. They're not getting enough funding from the member nations so you have to buy a 'license' to use the signal that they're broadcasting. That acutally didn't last very long. Someone at Stanford cracked the code on one of their test satellites since they already know the frequency, and its being broadcast constantly.

RE: Space war?
By Griswold on 4/7/2007 5:06:50 AM , Rating: 2
Joe Average will not have to buy a license to use it, its the systembuilders who will have to pay for a Galileo license, which isnt too bad considering that Galileo is not under military control (which was the reason why it is being installed in the first place: to be independent from the US military). It will also provide higher precision due to the higher number of satellites (27 +3 spare).

The delays are a result of, yet again, multi-national efforts where everybody (especially those countries that do not carry the biggest financial burden...) try to get the most out of it for themselves "or else...".

I'm not even going to comment on this "someone at standford cracked the code" mumbo jumbo, for that is not relevant at all to the problems of galileo - if its even true.

Furthermore, GLONASS will sport 24 (+3 spare) satellites once its finished in 2009, not 8. GLONASS is not some fancy new project either, it goes back to soviet times and in 1995 they had 25 operational sats in orbit, but that number declined over the years due to failures (the original Uragan sats had a lifespan of 3 years). The russians are merely rebuilding their system right now.

RE: Space war?
By Martin Blank on 4/6/2007 12:43:52 PM , Rating: 3
"Space control wars" will probably not happen within our lifetimes. There may be lots of satellites put up, and it may be possible to essentially deny space to everyone (send up a bunch of rockets, each with a few tons of sand, and then release the sand), but the volumes involved in space control are enormous.

For example, controlling US airspace, means controlling everything up to roughly 25km altitude. Using only the 50 states and DC, that means controlling 246 million cubic km. Controlling orbital space from LEO to the graveyard orbits requires controlling from 200km to 36,000km -- more than 352 billion cubic km (not factoring in expansion effects), which is more than 1400 times the airspace that has to be controlled.

Just getting the hardware involved up there would require a space budget with a significant fraction of the overall defense budget, and is nearly technologically impossible for the US and Russia, and not at all possible right now for Europe and China.

RE: Space war?
By Emryse on 4/6/2007 3:01:15 PM , Rating: 2
You bet it is. GPS is a vital function of weapons systems, navigation, intelligence, reconnaissance, and information to the war fighter.

What is not being considered is that although GPS is accessible, it can be monitored. This is advantageous to the intelligence community (now if they're actually taking advantage of this is up for debate).

Place a Russian or Chinese GPS-like system in competition – and you’re talking about the empowerment not only of those nations, but other 3rd nation parties like, say – oh I don’t know… IRAN? Of course, Russia and China would certainly offer this technology as an enhancement along with all of their other arms purchase and supply offerings to give their “consumers” a very competitive product indeed.

For those who say “so what makes that any different from the fact that people who shouldn’t be using GPS are already using it, so what does it matter whether US or something else” remember this: as stated above, at least in a US-monopolized system we have the ability to trace, track, and detect where “to” and “from” signals are being relayed – will the Russians or Chinese provide us (or US allies) with this information?

If you answered “yes” or “perhaps” to this final question – here is your sign.

RE: Space war?
By stromgald on 4/6/2007 4:28:50 PM , Rating: 6
I think you're basing your argument on a false assumption. There are no "to" signals to GPS satellites, at least not in the commercial sector. GPS satellites broadcast their exact position, which probably gets updated periodically from NORAD (the only "to" signals), on a certain frequency. That's ALL they do. They do not have two way communication with GPS recievers. In other words, the US cannot monitor who is using the GPS signals. GLONASS and GALILEO operate in the same way.

It's very much like a TV broadcast, except the only information being sent is the satellite's location. With an accurate clock and a small chip, a cell phone or another receiver will take the broadcast information and calculate a location.

By osalcido on 4/6/2007 1:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
This is good in case our system breaks for whatever reason.

RE: Redundant
By stromgald on 4/6/2007 2:18:25 PM , Rating: 6
Despite what this article and what the NY Times article says, these first 8 satellites won't make it very effective. I was surprised at such a low number since GPS required 24 before it was deemed operational in 1995. After some quick research, I found that the first 8 are going to only comprise one of the three orbital planes. They need to complete 2 more before they get solid global coverage. Basically, with 8 you'll get better-than-GPS accuracy only some times of the day.

Hopefully, Russia has enough money for the next 16 because with two systems, there will be very good redundancy even without EU and their pay-for-service GALILEO.

RE: Redundant
By Martin Blank on 4/6/2007 5:04:53 PM , Rating: 2
Russia has plenty of money due to their successful exploitation of their oil reserves. They have repaid their IMF debt fully -- and years ahead of schedule -- and are paying down their national debt while expanding numerous programs (though their navy doesn't seem to be one of them). They're not the poor also-rans of a mere six or seven years ago.

By Mitch101 on 4/6/2007 12:30:07 PM , Rating: 1
GLONASS is that russian for GONADS? Glad to see Russia has a pair still.

By Martin Blank on 4/6/2007 1:03:03 PM , Rating: 2
The Russian spelling is ???????, and it's short for ?????????? ????????????? ??????????? ???????, which translates into Global Navigation Satellite System (like the article says). The acronym itself doesn't translate into anything, AFAICT.

The Russian word for gonads, BTW, I think is ?????? (gonadi).

By Martin Blank on 4/6/2007 1:03:52 PM , Rating: 3
I had actual Russian words in there, but the site doesn't appear to be capable of displaying them. Oh, well.

These 8 will finish the system...
By Boatz on 4/6/2007 5:11:48 PM , Rating: 3
The article states that the eight will complete the system. There are already GLONASS satellites up and running. I am a land surveyor and use GPS quite often and the new equipment we have tracks the GLONASS satellites that are there and increases the accuracy we see in the field.

By stromgald on 4/6/2007 6:19:31 PM , Rating: 3
Ah, you're right. According to wikipedia, as of 1/2007, the system already has 50% time coverage in Russia and 40% elsewhere. These 8 will make it fully Russia operational with 18, but the final total of 24 for global coverage will come a ~2010. I'm impressed that Russia has done so much so quietly. I work in the same industry and didn't know they'd completed so much of it.

GPS is accurate
By feelingshorter on 4/6/2007 2:56:37 PM , Rating: 2
Our GPS system is accurate. It is just that consumers get the less accurate version while the military uses better ones. If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. What would happen if someone builds a homemade GPS guided missile, even if it is a small one. Plus, newer systems will be more accurate, no doubt about it.

RE: GPS is accurate
By Master Kenobi on 4/6/2007 3:30:56 PM , Rating: 2
Our current systems are accurate to within an inch........................ but thats only if your US Military. Civilian is accurate to within 3 feet. Because we don't feel like giving foreign militaries that degree of precision..... no good would come of it. Not like they can even compete with US Air Dominance, but anything we can do to cripple them further is always good.

Star Wars
By geddarkstorm on 4/6/2007 3:48:49 PM , Rating: 1
There was a space war once during President Reagan's administration. It was dubbed "Star Wars". Cost millions and contributed to the USSR's economic collapse. There's probably still hunter seeker satalites up there. Really, there isn't going to be another space war any time soon: for everyone back then realized how stupid it was, and no one now has the money they want to throw around wastefully just to blow up satilites or try to monopolize space.

The US is the only nation that controls "military" or high orbit space, and no one else is allowed satalites up there currently, so this "competition" is totally moot and just PR stuff.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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