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Minimal impact from GLONASS launch failure


A launch failure that sent three GLONASS satellites to the bottom the Pacific Ocean in early December is expected to have little impact on Corn Belt farmers who use sophisticated navigation technology that accesses the Russian satellite system.

Despite the launch glitch, the GLONASS system is expected to have 22 working satellites in place in the coming months. Although that is two short of the optimal 24-satellite constellation, GLONASS will continue to enhance accuracy and reliability of navigation systems that can access both GLONASS and GPS satellite systems, says Matt Darr, a precision agriculture specialist at Iowa State University.

“In the past couple years, RTK receivers that have the ability to work with both GPS and GLONASS satellites often have been able to access between 13 to 15 satellites, which is excellent,” says Darr. “In my opinion, not having the extra satellites isn’t a big issue. If you were only using GLONASS, it would be. But GLONASS is an enhancement for us, not a primary solution.”

The GLONASS enhancement comes into play when ag vehicles are operating in tough conditions, such as along tree lines and hills, says Darr. Having lots of satellites makes up for temporary losses from these obstructions, which can degrade reliability if satellite counts fall below minimums.

More on the launch failure here.

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