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The Difference Between GPS, Glonass and Galileo


When you look up in the night sky and see the bright moving light of a satellite, you might assume that it is a GPS satellite, research probe or even a weather balloon. However, did you know that even if you correctly guess a satellite, there is a good chance that it doesn’t belong to the GPS constellation? 

Indeed, we have previously discussed the different satellite systems, in relation to both RTK GPS and their sovereign owners, but today we will look at three systems in more depth. First, the American’s Global Positioning System (GPS), then the Russian’s GLObal NAvigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and finally, the European’s Galileo constellation.


The Differences Between Satellite Constellations

Galileo Constellation

The Galileo system was built by several European nations to access the benefits of satellite navigation, like RTK GPS. Currently, Galileo has 22 usable satellites in orbit, but they plan to have a full complement of 30 eventually. Additionally, the first satellite launch for this constellation occurred in 2011, making it the youngest group of the three.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

By contrast, the GPS set of satellites is the oldest, with the first launch occurring in February of 1978. It is also the largest group of satellites, boasting 31 out of 33 units currently in space.

GLObal NAvigation Satellite System (GLONASS)

Finally, we have the Russian satellite constellation GLONASS, which saw its first launch back in October 1982. In many ways, the Russian system is the average of the European and American versions. This includes its start time as well as the middle ground number of satellites it boasts, which is currently 24 out of the planned 26.

How Satellite Differences Benefit RTK GPS

Although each type of satellite system is owned by separate governments, it is also true that they function better together. Indeed, when looking for the best accuracy for surveying and measurement activities, taking multiple measurements into account guarantees better accuracy. This benefit is, in part, because of the reduction of false signals. 

Bench Mark Equipment & Supplies is your team to trust with all your surveying equipment. We have been providing high-quality surveying equipment to land surveyors, engineers, construction, airborne and resource professionals since 2002. This helps establish ourselves as the go-to team in Calgary, Canada, and the USA. Plus, we provide a wide selection of equipment, including global navigation satellite systems, RTK GPS equipment, GNSS receivers, and more. We strive to provide the highest level of customer care and service for everyone. To speak to one of our team today, call us on 403-286-0333 or email us [email protected]

About the Author

Nolan has been working in the surveying field since 2017, starting as a part-time student at Bench-Mark while attending the University of Calgary. He now works in technical support and sales helping customers find the right product for them.

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