Russias space agency is preparing to launch eight satellites that will nearly complete a system designed to compete directly, by 2009, with the existing global positioning system technology of the United States. GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), is expected to begin operations over Russian territory later this year, followed by coverage of adjacent parts of Europe and Asia. By controlling the only fully operational satellite navigation system in existence today, the United States holds a strategic advantage in times of conflict, according to Russian military officials. In theory, the United States could deny GPS navigation signals to countries with which it has a dispute. Such actions could affect industries as diverse as agriculture, oil production and banking, to say nothing of military operations. For the most part, the Russian system promises to be functionally equivalent to the existing GPS system, however it could be more accurate than GPS in regions where Russia has better access to terrestrial navigation aids. Some companies are already designing dual-chip navigation devices that support both systems.
While Russia attempts its own GPS alternative, China has already launched satellites for its own Baidu system. The European Unions Galileo positioning system is still in the planning stages, having hit a snag with its private contractors over potential profits. The European Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System is scheduled to come online in 2011 with higher precision than the existing GPS and GLONASS networks. However, delays put the Galileo project more than four years off schedule and still counting.
News source: DailyTech