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What is GLONASS [ Difference Between GLONASS & GPS ]

What is GLONASS? The principles of satellite navigation were laid back in the fifties, after the launch of the first Soviet artificial satellite. Observing the signal transmitted by the satellite, a group of American scientists led by Richard Kershner discovered that the frequency of the received signal increases with the approach of the satellite and, conversely, decreases with its distance (Doppler effect). This observation prompted scientists to the idea that accurate knowledge of the location of the ground object makes it possible to measure the location and speed of the satellite. Accordingly, accurate knowledge of the position of the satellite allows you to determine the coordinates and speed of movement of the ground object.

Nevertheless, for the first time, the practical implementation of the ideas of American specialists and scientists of the USSR engaged in the development of the theory of positioning took place only in 1982 after the launch of the first satellite, which was to enter the global positioning system (GLONASS).

  • GLONASS is more accurate in the northern regions. This is explained by the fact that significant military groups of the USSR, and subsequently Russia, were located precisely in the north of the country. Therefore, the GLONASS mechanics was calculated taking into account the accuracy in such conditions.
  • For smooth operation of the GLONASS system, corrective stations are not required. To ensure the accuracy of GPS, the satellites of which are stationary relative to the Earth, a chain of geostationary stations is needed, tracking inevitable deviations. In turn, the GLONASS satellites are mobile relative to the Earth, so the problem of adjusting the coordinates is absent initially.

For civilian use, this difference is palpable. For example, in Sweden, even 10 years ago, GLONASS was actively used, despite the large number of devices that already existed under GPS. A large part of the territory of this country lies at the latitudes of the Russian North, and the advantages of GLONASS in such conditions are obvious: the smaller the satellite’s inclination to the horizon, the more accurate the estimation of the time intervals between their signals (set by the navigator equipment), it is more accurate to calculate the coordinates and speed of movement.

What is GLONASS?

GLONASS is one of two existing global satellite navigation systems, the development of which was started in 1976, after which, due to the lack of sufficient funding, the program was curtailed. Full implementation and launch of the GLONASS project took place in 2009, after the collapse of the Union. At present, the Russian GLONASS and the American GPS are the main operating systems of global satellite navigation.

The main purpose of GLONASS is the prompt delivery of navigation and time information to users of land, space, air and sea bases. Providing access to civilian GLONASS signals is provided to consumers free of charge without any restrictions anywhere in the world. Information exchange is provided by 24 satellites moving along the 3rd orbital trajectories at altitudes of about 19,100 km. Based on the same physical principles as the American equivalent of GLONASS – the NAVSTAR GPS system, – GLONASS provides a measurement error of 3-6 meters. GPS works somewhat more precisely, providing access to the signal with an accuracy of – 2 … 4 m.

The development of the GLONASS project is under the jurisdiction of the Roscosmos agency.

What is GPS?

GPS (Global Positioning System) is an American satellite navigation system that transmits useful time and distance data and allows you to determine the location of an object within the global WGS 84 coordinate system. System development, its implementation and commissioning in 1993 conducted according to US Department of Defense instructions.

Today, the GPS navigation system, like GLONASS, is available for use by civilian consumers. To ensure the operation of the information channel, it is enough to purchase a GPS navigator or similar device with a GPS receiver.


Unlike the tracking system NAVSTAR GPS, the satellites providing the GLONASS system operation do not demonstrate resonance (working asynchronously) with the rotation of the Earth. Due to this, it is possible to achieve greater stability of the transmitted signal. Another advantage of the GLONASS system is revealed due to properly selected orbit parameters (altitude, angle and period): GLONASS is capable of providing reliable signal transmission in southern and polar latitudes – where the GPS signal transmission is extremely difficult or impossible.

Despite a number of serious practical advantages of GLONASS, the real situation in the market of services makes the majority of users prefer GPS yet. This is primarily due to:

  • with much more affordable cost communicators with GPS support;
  • the complete absence (in contrast to GPS services) of software products that allow installing GLONASS on communicators and smartphones;
  • the impressive potential of software for GPS navigation systems, allowing to significantly expand the range of applications of the latter.

GPS is able to provide access to user data anywhere in the world (with the exception of the Circumpolar region) in almost any weather conditions.