GLONASS or Global Navigation Satellite System is a worldwide navigation service. It was developed by Russian scientists in the 1970s. The basic purpose of developing such a quick navigation system was to keep an eye on regional military communications. Besides navigation, GLONASS provides authentic timing and positioning services. It’s used by users around the globe due to authenticity. The system runs on the basic principles of satellite and triangulation technology. It works like China’s BeiDou Navigation System, Europe’s Galileo Positioning System, and the US’ Global Positioning System.

Why GLONASS Was Developed?

GLONASS was developed by the Soviet Union. At the end of the Cold War during the 1970s, the Soviet Union realized the need for a navigation system to watch keenly the regional military communication. So, it developed GLONASS. Gradually, the Soviet Union started using it commercially for weather broadcast, navigation, communication and reconnaissance data, etc. It was first used for commercial purposes in 1982 partially. GLONASS became fully functional by 1993.

GLONASS Structure & Cost

Initially, the Soviet Union developed a modern navigation satellite that contained 18 active satellites. It was powerful enough to fulfill the global communication needs. The current GLONASS consists of 24 satellites and it’s considered the most authentic navigation system globally.

It’s the most expensive navigation system in the world so far. Up to 2011, the USSR govt. has spent 5 billion dollars on this project. To develop an authentic and trustworthy navigation system, scientists required more research. So, the Govt. invested another $10 billion in this project.

How Does it Work?

The system consists of three orbital planes where 24 satellites have been placed. In each plane, there are 8 satellites. These orbital planes move in the rotational cycle and the cycle repeats once every eight days. So, the rotator movement of every satellite consists of 8 to 17 sidereal/day. In this way, these satellites complete 17 orbital rotations within eight sidereal days.

The position of one satellite can be seen at the same spot at the same sidereal time. So, these 24 satellites in GLONASS target 64.8 degrees and cover around a 19,140 km radius. The radius of GLONASS is 1060 km lower than the GPS navigation system by the USA. That’s why; GLONASS is considered the most authentic navigation system around the world.

GLONASS Functions

  • The 24 satellites of GLONASS are detected by the GLONASS signal detector and it observes the following activities.
  • The current position of all satellites
  • Velocity and acceleration to calculate the exact location of each satellite
  • Wear and tear in each satellite
  • Matches GLONASS time with the Universal Time Russia
  • Activities of all satellites

Civil/Commercial Use of GLONASS

GLONASS is not fully commercial as is the GPS system of the US. The receivers of the Russian navigation system are a lot more expensive and they require a higher IF bandwidth. As compared to the GPS, GLONASS receivers have CDMA techniques for more authentic information. But still, GPS is used at mass levels for commercial purposes and GLONASS has limited usage.

In 2011, the government used the Russian navigation system for the security of civilians. The Govt. allowed for its usage in passenger cars, buses, and public transports. It was only used to detect explosive material, bombs, dangerous weapons, etc. After that, the government directed the vehicle manufacturers in Russia to build vehicles with GLONASS navigation for the security of vehicles.


If we compare GPS with GLONASS, we can see a vital difference in the number of satellites. GLONASS has 24 satellites and all are very powerful for navigation. On the contrary, the GPS has 31 satellites and it’s a bit inferior. But the US is using GPS for commercial devices such as smartphones, navigation, weather forecast, and other purposes. GLONASS is not commercial at all. It’s only used in vehicles to detect explosive material.

See the below-given table to compare the functions and range of both satellites.

Designed byRussiaUSA
Number of SatellitesAt-least 2431
Orbital Height21150 Km19130 km
AccuracyPosition: 5–10 mPosition: 3.5-7.8 m
Orbital plane inclination64.8 degree55 degree
Orbital period11 hours and 16 minutes11 hours and 58 minutes
Frequency (L1)Around 1.602 GHz (SP)1.57542 GHz (L1 signal)
Frequency (L2)Around 1.246 GHz (SP)1.2276 GHz (L2 signal)

Which is Better? GLONASS VS GPS

If we compare both navigation systems, we can say GLONASS is a lot better in performance. The GPS has wide coverage because it’s used in navigation systems, smartphones, and weather forecast departments. But the application of GLONASS is not commercial. However, the accuracy of GLONASS is above-board. It’s a very powerful and authentic navigation system. Even it can track you in subways and skyscrapers. On the contrary, the GPS signals are weak on subways.