February 27, 2011

Russia Successfully Launches Glonass Satellite

Russia successfully launched a satellite on Saturday that is vital to the deployment of its own navigation system after the failure of an earlier attempt prompted the Kremlin to fire two top space officials.

The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said the high-tech Glonass-K satellite reached its intended orbit about four hours after blasting off on top a Soyuz-2 rocket from Russia's northern Plesetsk launch pad.

"We have established and are maintaining steady telemetry communications with the space craft," a spokesman for the defense ministry's space forces told the Interfax news agency.

"The on-board systems of the Glonass-K satellite are functioning normally," the official said in a statement.

Russian space and military officials closely watched the launch after the last attempt to put three Glonass satellites in orbit failed on December 5.

The three orbiters would have completed Russia's own navigation system and enabled the military to finally target its missiles from space.

However, an error prevented the spacecraft from reaching its set distance from Earth and the satellites ended up plummeting into the Pacific ocean off Hawaii.

President Dmitry Medvedev fired two space officials after a probe placed the blame on a simple fuel miscalculation.

The three satellites would have completed a Glonass system whose research had been started by the Soviet Union in 1976 before being interrupted and then picked up again by Vladimir Putin.

Russia's de facto leader vowed to place Glonass readers on every car made in Russia by 2012.

Russia refuses to use the Global Positioning System (GPS) developed in the U.S. out of fears that its military's access to the technology might be cut off in times of war.

Glonass needs 24 functional orbiters to successfully cover the globe and start receiving its first commercial clients.

The latest launch brings the satellite total to 27.  However, the system is still not working on a world scale because four of the craft have been undergoing repairs.

Saturday's success prompted the head of the Federal Space Agency to announce Russia was moving back to multiple satellite launches that should complete the global system by the end of the year.

"Everything should go smoothly now," Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov told ITAR-TASS.


On the Net: