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    Russia Tries to Advance an Alternative to GPS - Stratfor
    From: Jackson McDonald
    Date: 2014 Apr 24, 17:47 +0000

    https://snt151.mail.live.com/default.aspx?id=64855#tid=cmyAFh1FLL4xGSXwAiZMF9WA2&fid=flinbox  



    Russia Tries to Advance an Alternative to GPS - Stratfor

    Russia Tries to Advance an Alternative to GPS

    April 24, 2014 | 0100 GMT
    Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have frequently cooperated in their dealings in outer space. But as the Crimea crisis shows, there are clear limits to that cooperation.
    Russia made several announcements today on deals regarding its Global Navigation Satellite System, known by the acronym GLONASS, which is currently the only alternative to the U.S. global positioning system, or GPS. Russia first announced that it would integrate national navigation systems with Belarus and Kazakhstan, strengthening space, security and military cooperation with two of its closest allies among the former Soviet states. Moscow also announced that it intended to build some 50 ground-based stations in 35 countries, expanding the accuracy of the navigational system abroad. Earlier in April, Russia also pushed GLONASS as an alternative to GPS in South Africa, China, India and Brazil as a part of its broader efforts to economically and financially integrate the so-called BRICS states while excluding the United States and Europe.
    What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman explains.
    Cooperating with the other BRICS countries fits into this initiative. However, some countries may not be so eager to rely on Russian systems: If a country wanted to eliminate or jam a Russian satellite, it would also have to consider every country that is part of that system network. China has been particularly hesitant to join and is developing its own GPS alternative, Beidou.
    The GLONASS and the GPS navigational systems are products of the Cold War, a time when the Soviet Union and the United States were compelled to develop global navigational systems independently of one another. The GPS system was developed largely for military purposes, and it was not introduced for civilian use until the mid-1990s. When the Soviet Union fell, GLONASS was almost complete, and the Russian Federation was able to declare the system operational within a few years. However, the economic crisis of the 1990s caused Moscow to neglect GLONASS until relatively recently.
    Of course, times have changed. In a world dominated by two superpowers, each superpower had to develop its own navigational system so that it would not be outmatched by the other. Otherwise, it would have faced a far more sophisticated military that was better able to move weapons, vehicles and personnel. But when the Cold War ended, there was only one superpower left standing, so the United States was able to move forward with a system that did not exclude everyone but its closest allies.
    As a result, Russia and the United States began to work with one another, and eventually Washington slowed its funding for government-run space programs. For example, the United States relies entirely on Russian rockets for manned missions to space; NASA's space shuttle was retired in 2011, and Russia-made RD-180 rocket engines are used to provide the initial rocket power on the Atlas V launch vehicle, one of the United States' most prolific launch vehicles for military and intelligence satellites. This would have been unthinkable during the Cold War, as would Russia's transition to commercial launch operations from military launch operations.
    When Vladimir Putin became president for the first time in 2000, he outlined a goal to modernize and re-establish GLONASS as a legitimate alternative to GPS, a goal that was finally realized in 2011. Russia's expansion and modernization of GLONASS meant to reduce Russian dependence on the GPS system for critical uses that the United States could deny. Russia also began to restructure, rebuild and normalize its military throughout the 2000s.
    With Russia now acting more assertively -- not to mention due to the fallout over Crimea -- it is clear that any post-Cold War cooperation may have ended. Over the past few years, Russia has threatened to ban the export of RD-180 rockets, without which the ATLAS V cannot be launched.
    Meanwhile, the United States has discussed forcing the Atlas V designers to build the rocket engines themselves or use other domestically produced launch platforms. On April 2, NASA circulated an internal document that suspended many contracts with Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, because of the situation in Ukraine and Crimea. Most recently, the United States has considered banning land stations for GLONASS in the United States, a move Russia said Wednesday was a political statement.
    Despite the announced deals, GLONASS is far from operational. Though it has global coverage and is nearly as precise as GPS, it is not reliable enough for widespread civilian use. The Russians are still building out and modernizing the system, but this process has been beset by corruption, rocket launch failures and technical errors. GLONASS gave inaccurate readings when bad orbital positions were uploaded to satellites over Russia twice in April. Currently, the Russians only have control sites in Russia and Brazil, which limits Russia's management of satellites that are not in view of those locations. In order to become a more reliable network, Russia hopes to expand control sites and has been in talks with countries such as Vietnam, Spain, Indonesia and Cuba.
    Global satellite positioning systems have many important uses, but ultimately are more important as a military tool than as a civilian tool. While they are very important for navigational use for shipping lanes and logistical routes -- not to mention for land surveying and civil engineering -- they are indispensable for some precision munitions and tracking and monitoring the position of friendly forces and equipment in dangerous areas. Thus, the two global rivals will continue to use these kinds of navigational systems to circumvent one another and ensure their imperatives in space remain safe.

       
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