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Deployment of global Glonass network complete – Popovkin

October 07, 2011, 19:57 UTC+3

A trio of Glonass-M navigation satellites will be put to orbit in November 2011, the Federal Space Agency said in the end of September

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MOSCOW, October 7 (Itar-Tass) —— The deployment of a Glonass global navigation satellite cluster is complete, Federal Space Agency head Vladimir Popovkin told the State Duma on Friday.

“We completed the formation of the orbiting cluster with the launch of a Glonass-M satellite in early October,” he said. “Now we will develop the system’s land-based infrastructure, which will increase the Glonass precision to one meter from current five to six meters by 2015.”

“Russia holds an unjustifiably small place on the world market of space services. The market value is $260 billion, and Russia’s share is 3% only. The problem is that Russia mostly renders launch services,” he said.

“Therefore, we have reviewed priorities of the federal space program. One of our new priorities is Earth monitoring, weather and communication satellites. Another priority is space science,” he said.

A trio of Glonass-M navigation satellites will be put to orbit in November 2011, the Federal Space Agency said in the end of September.

“A Proton-M launch vehicle with a Briz-M booster and a cluster of three Glonass-M satellites will lift off in November 2011,” it said.

There are 28 Glonass satellites in orbit at present; 23 of them are operating, two are being put into service, and three are out for maintenance. The

No less than 18 operating satellites are necessary for Glonass coverage of Russia, and 24 satellites make the system global.

Glonass-M satellites are products of the Zheleznogorsk Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems based on earlier types of Glonass satellites and a unified pressurized platform. Glonass-M differed from its predecessors with a modified antenna feeder, a longer service life (seven years instead of 3-4.5 years) and two frequencies for civilian users. Glonass-M has been in use since December 2003. The satellite weighs 1,415 kilograms.

Glonass is a radio-based satellite navigation system, developed by the former Soviet Union and now operated by the Russian Space Forces. It is an alternative and complementary to the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS) and the planned Galileo positioning system of the European Union (EU).

Development on Glonass began in 1976, with a goal of global coverage by 1991. Beginning on 12 October 1982, numerous rocket launches added satellites to the system until the constellation was completed in 1995. Economic problems suspended the project, and Russia committed to restore the system in 2001.

On May 18, 2007, then Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a decree officially providing open access to the civilian navigation signals of the Glonass system, to Russian and foreign consumers, free of charge and without limitations. The Russian president also directed the Federal Space Agency to coordinating work to maintain, develop and enable the system for civilian and commercial needs.

Glonass was developed to provide real-time position and velocity determination, initially for use by the Soviet military for navigation and ballistic missile targeting. It was the Soviet Union's second-generation satellite navigation system, improving on the Tsikada system, which required one to two hours of signal processing to calculate a location with high accuracy. By contrast, once a Glonass receiver is tracking the satellite signals, a position fix is available instantly.

Popovkin also confirmed that the launch of Phobos Grunt, an interplanetary station to bring soil samples from the Martian moon of Phobos, was planned for early November.

The Phobos Grunt launch has been delayed repeatedly since 2009. Russia and Ukraine agreed in late October 2010 that the probe would be operated from the European center.

Bacteria, fungi, maxillopoda, fish and chironomids will be the first inhabitants of the Earth to visit the Martian moon of Phobos. There will be also seeds in the bio-container of the Phobos Grunt research vehicle, head of the microbiology laboratory of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medical and Biological Problems Natalia Novikova told Itar-Tass earlier.

"Apart from seeds, we plan to send four species of bacteria, fungi, maxillopoda, Nothobranchius guentheri and African chironomids on a space mission onboard Phobos Grunt in the second stage of the Biorisk experiment," Novikova said.

The Phobos Grunt passengers will help scientists to resolve the problem of planetary quarantine and protection in future manned interplanetary flights, Novikova said.

"It is no less important to understand whether it is possible to bring to the Earth microorganisms from other planets or Earth microorganisms that have been to space," the research said.

Once the vehicle reaches Mars, it will spend several months in orbit to choose the best place for landing on Phobos. A landing capsule will separate and reach the moon surface. It will collect relic substance, which, in the opinion of scientists, might have formed planets of the solar system. The samples will be taken to the Earth.

An automatic station will stay on Phobos to continue the study and to monitor the local climate and circumplanetary space. The station will test prospective technologies of Martian flights.

Also, Phobos Grunt will bring a Chinese micro-satellite to the Martian orbit and joint experiments will be held. The Chinese satellite Yinghuo-1 (or Firefly Light-1) is planned to be placed on Martian orbit within the framework of the joint Russian-Chinese Mars exploration agreement signed in 2007.

Yinghuo-1 is the first Chinese deep space research probe. Its start will mark a new stage in China's space exploration. The spacecraft's weight is 115 kilograms, the estimated service life - 2 years. It is to enter the near-Mars orbit in some 10 months after the start from Earth. The Yinghuo-1 research program includes collection of data on the planet' s environment, including studying the mechanism of water evaporation, which could help scientists in the future to unravel the mystery of disappearance on Mars in the past of this indispensable source of life and its development.

In all, Phobos Grunt will be carrying over 20 research instruments.

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