GLONASS is a Russian satellite navigation system, which - like GPS - was originally intended for military applications. Today it can also be used by civilian users, especially in combination with GPS.

Russian satellite system

The construction of the GLONASS (Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema) started in 1976. The system is owned and managed by the Russian defence and is an alternative to GPS in terms of global coverage and precision. The system has been in full civilian use since 1999 and includes 24 satellites, which was not achieved until 8 December, 2011 (except for a short period in 1996).

Description of the system

GLONASS differs slightly from GPS with regard to e.g. satellite constellation. The normal constellation consists of 24 satellites distributed over three orbital planes at about 19,000 km above the earth's surface. The satellite orbits have a higher inclination which is described as the latitude that the satellites turn at compared to GPS, which means a slightly better coverage at northern latitudes (for example in Sweden). The satellites transmit two signals, L1 and L2, both of which contain a civilian and a military code, similar to GPS.

GLONASS uses the geodetic reference frame PZ-90, which over the years has come in several improved versions.

Control of the system

The satellites are controlled and adjusted through a number of ground-based control stations, mainly located in Russia. There are also some control stations outside Russian territory and further expansion of the control segment is underway.

Modernisation of GLONASS

For some time now, modernisation of GLONASS has been underway, which means, among other things, that new satellites will transmit another civilian signal - L3  in addition to the previous signals L1 and L2.

More information

See current status of Glonass (new window)

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