Euro sat nav system blasts off

Russia successfully launched a rocket on Tuesday carrying the last three satellites to complete a navigation system to rival America’s GPS.

Euro sat nav system blasts off

The military-run GLONASS mapping system works over most of Russia and is expected to cover the globe by the end of 2009, once all its 24 navigational satellites are operating.

Work on GLONASS – or Global Navigation Satellite System – began in the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s to give its armed forces exact bearings around the world.

Officials said GLONASS would mainly be used alongside the US global positioning system, which Washington can switch off for civilian subscribers, as it did during recent military operations in Iraq.

However, GLONASS is facing political opposition in the UK. “What taxpayers in the UK and other European countries really need is better railways and roads, not giant signature projects in the sky, providing services that we already have from GPS,” argues the Transport Committee’s chair, Gwyneth Dunwoody.

“The system may be obsolete even before it is operational… the best cost-benefit solution at this stage might be to scrap the programme entirely.”

For more on this topic, read Stewart Mitchell’s analysis here.

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