Glanoss

What on earth is happening with "Russia's GPS"?

December 1, 2009: 11:08 AM ET

Much ballyhooed satellite navigation system suffers technical setbacks and paucity of devices. Who will guide Father Frost?

By Julia Ioffe, contributor

Glonass staffers hope to compete with GPS. Photo: Glonass.

Late last month Moscow celebrated the birthday of Father Frost, the Russian iteration of Santa Claus, with a new-fangled announcement: Father Frost's retinue would move through the holiday skies aided by Glonass, the Russian answer to GPS.

Eagerly waiting children could track his movement online, while he could simultaneously improve his gift-giving efficiency. "Now Father Frost can be sure," his press release said. "He can monitor his helpers through the Internet, even when he himself leaves for another city."

It is unclear, however, how well Glonass will be able to aid Team Frost. The Glonass network (much like America's Global Positioning System, a Cold War defense and missile-tracking system that was eventually opened to civilian use) was envisioned as an equal competitor to its U.S. counterpart.

But Glossnass recently has suffered some technical setbacks. More

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