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National security concerns as US eyes Russian satellites to route emergency call system

January 22, 2015, 15:00 UTC+3 WASHINGTON
In a proposal before the commission, the US emergency system would rely on Russia's GLONASS precision navigation and timing satellite system to locate people calling 911 from their mobile phones
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© EPA/ITAR-TASS/Archive

WASHINGTON, January 22. /TASS/. The US Federal Communications Commission is considering a plan to route 911 emergency location calls through a Russian satellite system, The Washington Times said on Wednesday.

In a proposal before the commission, the US emergency system would rely on Russia's GLONASS precision navigation and timing satellite system to locate people calling 911 from their mobile phones, the newspaper reported. Russian GLONASS is said to be more accurate than its American counterpart, GPS, which does not cover enough territory.

The idea has raised national security concerns among some members of the US Congress who claimed that if the plan was enacted, Russia might have the ability to impair America’s 911 capabilities and could use it as a tool to spy on the whereabouts of first responders and others, the newspaper said.

Russia has been developing GLONASS since 1976 on instructions from the Defense Ministry. The first GLONASS satellite was launched into orbit in 1982. In 1993, the initial system of 12 satellites was formally declared operational and in December 1995, the constellation was finally brought to its optimal status of 24 operational satellites, enabling full global coverage.

The system currently comprises 28 satellites, including 24 operational spacecraft, three spares, and one platform in a flight testing phase. In Russia, 19 ground stations provide consumers with a navigation signal with an accuracy of one meter. Three stations are located in the Antarctic and one in Brazil. 

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