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Launch of GLONASS sat interrupts string of Russia’s space failures

November 29, 2011, 15:12 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, November 29 (Itar-Tass) —— The string of failures has been broken, Russian analysts have been saying in the wake of the successful launch of the GLONASS-M satellite. Immediately after the launch the news arrived that over 320 billion rubles will be injected into the development of the GLONASS system by 2020.

A Soyuz rocket carrying the GLONASS-M satellite blasted from the northern cosmodrome Plesetsk on Monday. The spacecraft is to join the Russian orbital group of navigation satellites GLONASS.

The GLONASS system is expected to compete with the United States’ universally spread Global Positioning System (GPS).

This year six GLONASS satellites have been put in orbit. The formation of the full orbital group of the GLONASS system (24 satellites in three orbital planes) is about to be completed. The last satellite of the group is to be put in space at the beginning of December. The orbital group has not only achieved its full strength. It will also have some reserve satellites.

The unsuccessful launch of three GLONASS satellites in December 2010 was one of the reasons for the dismissal of the previous chief of the federal space agency Roscosmos, Anatoly Perminov. The damage was then estimated at 4.3 billion rubles. The loss of navigation satellites was another in a series of failed spacecraft launches that plagued the Russian space industry lately.

At the beginning of February this year the military satellite Geo-IK-2 was lost shortly after it was launched by the carrier rocket Rokot. Later, the spacecraft was detected in a different orbit, but using it as expected was no longer possible.

Roscosmos suffered the next setback on August 18, 2011 – the telecommunication satellite Express-AM4 was placed in a wrong orbit, too. The satellite, as it soon turned out, is functional and in the "standby mode", but it is impossible to bring it to the working orbit.

After just five days, on August 23, the launch of a space truck, Progress M-12M, which was supposed to deliver food, equipment and other supplies to the ISS, ended in complete failure. Russia’s latest loss at the moment is the interplanetary probe Phobos-Grunt, which was supposed to deliver Martian rock samples. Phobos-Grunt, launched in the small hours of November 9, is currently in a wrong orbit and its future is anyone’s guess.

Last Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev promised to severely punish the perpetrators of the space failures, which "strongly hit our competitiveness."

"This means that there must be a detailed debriefing, and those guilty are to be properly punished. I do not propose shooting anyone, of course, the way it was done under Joseph Stalin. Nevertheless, punishment must be real, either with the ruble - just taking back all the money that was paid, or, if there is an obvious fault, there may be disciplinary or even criminal liability," said Medvedev.

Immediately after the announcement of the successful launch of the satellite GLONASS-M Roscosmos said that the development of GLONASS in 2012-2020, as well as the creation of conditions for its widespread use in Russia and abroad will get an injection of 330.5 billion rubles. This is significantly more than the funds that have been spent on the program for Russia's satellite navigation system so far, although less than the agency had asked for.

In June, the head of Roscosmos Vladimir Popovkin said that his agency had asked for 402 billion rubles for the GLONASS program by the year 2020. However, even the allocated 330.5 billion rubles is several times more than the amount spent on the previous GLONASS program. The federal program Global Navigation System in 2001 through 2011 consumed 102 billion rubles. Government funding totaled 98.7 billion rubles.

As the chief designer of the company Information Satellite Systems, Nikolai Testoyedov, earlier told reporters that in accordance with the GLONASS program 51 more satellites are to be made by 2020. Now, he said, the GLONASS system is able to determine the location of an object with an accuracy of 5-6 meters. However, after two or three years it will be able to do this with an accuracy of one meter.

He stressed that now there were 24 operating satellites in orbit. "This means that anywhere in the world, including at the equator, the consumer will be in contact with at least four satellites, which will allow for fully solving the navigation task - getting location and speed data. This is just what the consumer needs," he added.