Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 142

Russia’s Military Space Forces plan to launch three communications satellites from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the third week of December that will complete a new satellite navigation system for airlines, a spokesman said yesterday. The three would complete the creation of a 24-satellite orbital airline navigation system known as GLONASS. Russia hopes to use the system for air traffic control. (7)

GLONASS was initially developed as a classified military system for locating US (and Soviet) submarines, then extended to civilian use by Soviet research and merchant vessels. The system is comprised essentially of triple COSMOS payloads. It provides three dimensional navigation data, analogous to the US NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) now widely used by airlines, including Russian ones. The Russians obviously are looking to its commercial potential, but it is doubtful how successful they can be at this late date. Many airlines do not yet have the equipment for receiving satellite signals; and those that do, are already hooked up to GPS. Moreover, many commercial sea and ground transportation and delivery services, like the familiar United Parcel Service, already use GPS. Finally, the application of GPS technology to private automobiles and taxis is already well under way in America, Europe and Japan, and represents a near-term major contribution to developing the smart highways of the future. Russian attempts to commercialize GLONASS will therefore face major hurdles in getting any significant market share.

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