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Russia launches three Glonass satellites

RIA Novosti

26/12/2006 09:48 MOSCOW, December 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has expanded its global navigation satellite system (Glonass) with three satellites, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said Tuesday.

A Proton-K rocket carrying three modernized Glonass-M satellites lifted off at 23:18 Moscow time (8:18 p.m. GMT) Monday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The satellites were put into orbit early Tuesday.

Glonass, a Russian version of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), is designed for both military and civilian purposes, and allows users to identify their positions in real time. It can also be used in geological prospecting.

President Vladimir Putin ordered in December 2005 that the system be ready by 2008 and in March this year Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Glonass will be available to domestic consumers for military as well for civilian purposes by the end of 2007.

Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov said earlier Russia is in talks with the United States and the European Space Agency to prepare agreements on the use of Glonass jointly with GPS and Galileo satellite navigation systems.

The agency plans to have 18 satellites in orbit by late 2007 or early 2008, and a full orbital group of 24 satellites by the end of 2009, he said.

In November Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia will lift all precision restrictions, from the start of 2007, in the use of Glonass to enable accurate and unlimited commercial use of the military-controlled global positioning system. Current restrictions limit the accuracy for civilian users of Glonass to 30 meters.

The first launch under the Glonass program took place October 12, 1982, but the system was only formally launched September 24, 1993.

Andrei Kozlov, the head of the Reshetnev Research and Production Center in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia's leading spacecraft manufacturer, said earlier the Glonass system currently had 13 satellites in orbit.

The satellites currently in use are of two modifications - Glonass and its updated version Glonass-M. Glonass-M has a longer service life of seven years and is equipped with updated antenna feeder systems and an additional navigation frequency for civilian users.

A future modification, Glonass-K, is an entirely new model based on a non-pressurized platform, standardized to the specifications of the previous models' platform, Express-1000.

Glonass-Ks' estimated service life has been increased to 10-12 years and a third "civilian" L-range frequency was added.

Tests on Glonass-K satellites are scheduled for 2007.

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