Friday, September 26, 2008

GLONASS-M satellites launched by Russia

Russia successfully launched three satellites to enhance its space navigation system, officials said.

The Russian Federal Space Agency said the three GLONASS-M satellites were put into orbit Thursday by a Proton-M rocket that blasted off from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.

They are to join Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS — the equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS.

The system, which serves both military and civilian purposes, was developed during the Soviet era and is supposed to have 24 satellites. Thursday's launch brought the number to 17.

The government had promised to make GLONASS fully operational by the beginning of this year, but it was delayed by equipment flaws and other technical problems.

Portable navigation devices are still a rarity in the Russian military, according to officials.

The short lifetime of GLONASS satellites also have made it more difficult for the government to bring the system into full working mode.

GLONASS-M satellites developed recently have a lifetime of seven years, compared to three years for their predecessors.



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