Russia Close-Up: Where ‘Russian GPS’ come from

In the heart of Siberia there is a closed city called Zheleznogorsk, located 70 kilometres from Krasnoyarsk. It is integral to Russia’s space exploration programme as one of its manufacturing facilities – NPO PM – produces three quar

The second generation of Russia's Glonass series – a four-metre-high satellite – is insured for $US 16 million. When it's launched into orbit, it will join 14 others orbiting the Earth.

It takes eight months to produce its 200,000 parts and five more to assemble them by hand.

The U.S.' Global Positioning System' is the only fully functional Global Navigation Satellite System to date. By the year 2010 Russia's own version is expected to be ready.

By that time the 24 satellites required for complete coverage of the planet will be in orbit. The system will be able to locate any object on Earth to within a metre.

Glonass was launched 25 years ago in the former USSR for military reconnaissance.

But the recent presidential decree has given civilians full access to use its signals, making it Russia's version of GPS.

“Glonass and GPS are similar systems. For Russia having its own satellite navigation system is a question of national security.

During the ‘Desert Storm’ operation in Iraq Americans disrupted the civil signal in order to trick their potential enemies. And their high-accuracy signal was inaccessible,” said Nikolay Testoyedov, NPO PM Director General.

Glonass is not a cheap project but experts say the investment will be repaid as they expect a profit from the sales of navigation hardware and navigation services.