What is GLONASS and How is it Different from GPS

In the last few years, various tracking system has evolved which has the ability to track satellite constellations and eventually has become equally essential as GPS. GLONASS is such a tracking device which is as useful as GPS, although it is different from GPS.

Therefore in this article, we are going to discuss GLONASS and will also show you the differences between GLONASS and GPS. Moreover, we will also inform you about a few other competitors of GLONASS and GPS. So in order to develop a sound knowledge on GLONASS, you must go through this article thoroughly.


Russia’s GLONASS is the best competitor of America’s GPS. GLONASS stands for (Globalnaya navigatsionnaya sputnikovaya sistema), or “Global Navigation Satellite System” which is a collection of 24 satellites located in 3 Middle Earth Orbits (MEOs) which seeks to provide global coverage for tracking and navigation for both civilian and military purposes.

Just like other tracking devices, the working of GLONASS is also based on the triangulation principles. The satellites broadcast signals to Earth, and by calculating the difference in timing of the received signals from various satellites, a receiver can figure out the actual position of the satellites.

For tracking applications, it is essential to have a receiver which can receive signals from at least four satellites, and it should have the ability to calculate latitude, longitude, and elevation. Luckily GLONASS has a powerful receiver which can receive a signal from four or more satellites.

Different versions of GLONASS are listed below.

GLONASS This version of GLONASS was launched in 1982, and the satellites launched were intended to work for weather positioning, velocity measuring and timing anywhere in the world or near-Earth space by the military and official organizations.

GLONASS-M This version was launched in 2003, and it is essential for GIS mapping receivers.

GLONASS-K This version started in 2011 and has three more types namely K1, K2 and KM for research.

GLONASS-K2 and GLONASS-KM – Both these versions will be launched in the future, but currently, they are in the design phase.

So with this, we have highlighted all the essential points of GLONASS, and hence we will now move into the next segment of the article where we will highlight the main differences between America’s GPS and Russia’s GLONASS.

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Main differences between Russian’s GLONASS and America’s GPS

GPS developed by the USA has a network of 31 satellites covering Earth and has been widely used in commercial devices like mobile phones, and navigators, etc. On the other hand, GLONASS is developed by Russia and was initially started by the Soviet Union in 1976. GLONASS has a network of 24 satellites covering the whole planet.

Now we will show you the main differences between GLONASS and GPS within the table given below.

Parameters GLONASS GPS
Developed By Russia America
Number of satellites 24 31
Orbital Height 21150 Km 19130 Km
Orbital Period 11 hrs and 16 minutes 11 hrs and 58 minutes
Orbital plane inclination 64.8 degree 55 degree
Frequency Around 1.602 GHz (SP)

Around 1.246 GHz (SP)

1.57542 GHz (L1 signal)

1.2276 GHz (L2 signal)

Accuracy Position: 5–10 m Position: 3.5-7.8 m

As we have already highlighted all the significant differences between GLONASS and GPS, so now we will move into the last segment of this article where you will get to know about few other competitors of Russia’s GLONASS and America’s GPS.

Alternatives of GLONASS and GPS

  1. European Union has developed GALILEO which provides highly accurate global positioning service under civilian control. Galileo system has 30 satellites (27 operational + 3 active spares), positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit planes at 23 222 km altitude above the Earth, and at an orbital plane inclination of 56 degrees to the equator.                                                                                       glonass
  2. China is developing its own constellation of 35 satellites called BeiDou Navigation Satellite System which is under construction since January 2015. It is expected that this satellite navigation system will offer more capabilities than current GPS. BeiDou Navigation Satellite System currently operational in China and Asia Pacific region with 11 satellites. However, it will be globally available by 2020.                                                                                                                             glonass and gpu
  3. IRNSS or Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System is an autonomous satellite system developed by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) and will offer public service and limited service to the authorized users like the military. IRNSS or Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System consists of 7 satellites.

what is glonass

So these are the alternatives of GLONASS and GPS which are expected to be as effective and beneficial as GLONASS and GPS in the near future.


If you through this article thoroughly you will understand that although there are differences between GLONASS and GPS still, they provide navigation services both to military personnel and civilians. Another essential point about these systems is that if you use these two systems together, then the accuracy improves by a huge margin. Therefore nowadays several devices consist of both GPS and GLONASS chips.

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