GLONASS, acronym for Globalnaya navigatsionnaya sputnikovaya sistema or Global Navigation Satellite System, is a radio-based satellite navigation system operated for the Russian government by the Russian Space Forces. It both complements and provides an alternative to the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS), the Chinese Compass navigation system and the planned Galileo positioning system of the European Union.
The operational space segment of GLONASS consists of 21 satellites in 3 orbital planes, with 3 on-orbit spares. The three orbital planes are separated 120 degrees, and the satellites within the same orbit plane by 45 degrees. Each satellite operates in circular 19,100 km orbits at an inclination angle of 64.8 degrees and each satellite completes an orbit in approximately 11 hours 15 minutes.
The ground control segment of GLONASS is entirely located within former Soviet Union territory. The Ground Control Center and Time Standards is located in Moscow and the telemetry and tracking stations are in St. Petersburg, Ternopol, Eniseisk, Komsomolsk-na-Amure.
The first GLONASS satellites were launched into orbit in 1982. Two Etalon geodetic satellites were also flown in the 19,100 km GLONASS orbit to fully characterise the gravitational field at the planned altitude and inclination. The original plans called for a complete operational system by 1991, but the deployment of the full constellation of satellites was not completed until late 1995 / early 1996. GLONASS was officially declared operational on September 24, 1993 by a decree of the President of the Russian Federation.
In the early 2000s, under Vladimir Putin's presidency, the restoration of the system was made a top government priority and funding was substantially increased. GLONASS is currently the most expensive program of the Russian Federal Space Agency, consuming a third of its budget in 2010.
By 2010, GLONASS had achieved 100% coverage of Russia's territory and in October 2011, the full orbital constellation of 24 satellites was restored, enabling full global coverage. The GLONASS satellites designs have undergone several upgrades, with the latest version being GLONASS-K.