Satellite Constellations

Navigating Precision: The Role of GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou in RTK GNSS Positioning

In high accuracy GNSS mapping there are 4 satellite constellations covering the globe providing positioning services. The four major players – GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou – are critical for Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) GNSS positioning. Each of these constellations brings unique strengths, additional coverage, and when combined provide a robust and reliable network contributing to the accuracy and efficiency of RTK GNSS applications.

GPS (Global Positioning System):

  • As the pioneer in satellite navigation, GPS, operated by the United States, comprises a constellation of satellites orbiting Earth. Renowned for its global coverage, GPS is the foundation of many navigation systems, providing precise location data for diverse applications.

GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System):

  • Originating from Russia, GLONASS is a constellation designed for global navigation. With a fleet of satellites in orbit, GLONASS enhances GNSS positioning, particularly in high-latitude regions where other constellations might face challenges.


  • A European initiative, Galileo adds another layer to the GNSS landscape. Known for its accuracy and reliability, Galileo’s constellation of satellites is designed to provide global coverage, offering a European alternative to existing navigation systems.


  • BeiDou, China’s contribution to GNSS, has rapidly evolved into a global player. The most recent addition to available constellations it is expanding in both size and capability. Due to it’s more recent deployment BeiDou isn’t always being leveraged in RTK receivers and is a good differentiator for users dealing with more occluded sky’s.

RTK GNSS Positioning and the Collective Power:

  • Centimeter-Level Accuracy:
    • The combination of GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou in RTK GNSS positioning ensures centimeter-level accuracy. The collaborative efforts of these constellations enable users to achieve unparalleled precision in their positioning applications, with faster convergence times and higher accuracy in occluded environments.
  • Global Coverage and Redundancy:
    • RTK GNSS users benefit from the global coverage provided by the collective constellations, ensuring reliable performance across diverse geographical locations. The redundancy inherent in multiple constellations further enhances system robustness, reducing the impact of signal obstructions or satellite outages.
  • Optimized Performance in Challenging Environments:
    • Different constellations excel in various environments. GLONASS, for instance, performs well in high-latitude regions, complementing the overall performance in challenging terrain. The inclusion of multiple constellations ensures optimal performance, even in less favorable conditions. People operating under tree canopy will find the use of all 4 constellations a must.
  • Increased Availability and Reliability:
    • RTK GNSS positioning benefits from increased satellite availability, as users can tap into signals from multiple constellations simultaneously. This enhanced availability contributes to the reliability and stability of RTK solutions, critical for applications demanding continuous and precise positioning.

In conclusion, the integration of GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou in RTK GNSS positioning receivers is enabling precision data collection in environments before thought impossible. The collaboration of these constellations not only ensures centimeter-level accuracy but also fortifies the reliability, availability, and performance of RTK GNSS applications across diverse landscapes. As the use of RTK technology integrates more into our tools, the collective power of these constellations will continue to enable efficient use of high-precision positioning systems in real world applications.