The Academician Fyodorov scientific research vessel has arrived at the Russian Antarctic outpost of Bellingshausen on a mission to set up a station for tracking the GLONASS navigation satellites, the Voice of Russia reported.
Glonass – the Global Navigation Satellite System – is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian use. Both systems allow users to determine their positions to within a few meters.
Russia currently has a total of 22 Glonass satellites in orbit, but only 16 of them are operational.
Three satellites have been temporarily withdrawn from the grouping over technical problems, one satellite will be decommissioned and two new satellites are expected to enter service in the near future.
The Glonass system requires 18 operational satellites for continuous navigation services covering the entire territory of Russia and at least 24 satellites to provide navigation services worldwide.
A total of 9.9 billion rubles ($360 million) was allocated for the Glonass project from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion rubles ($170 million) in 2006.
An additional $2.6 billion was allocated to develop the system in September 2008