Russia has successfully launched a next-generation navigation satellite for its Glonass global communication system.
The Glonass-K satellite was hauled into orbit on Saturday morning from the northern Plesetsk space centre by the upgraded Soyuz 2-1b launcher, featuring advanced digital avionics and a more powerful Fregat upper stage. The new satellite has a longer design life, more navigation channels and is smaller than previous Glonass-M spacecraft.
Saturday's launch will increase the deployed Glonass grouping to 23 satellites, one short of the minimum needed to provide 100-per cent global coverage.
In December the launch of three Glonass-M satellites failed when the carrier rocket crashed into the ocean after it was filled with excessive fuel and deviated from course.
Russia plans to launch five Glonass satellites this year to replace the ones that crashed and deploy back-up satellites.
Glonass will be integrated with the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as with the European Union's Galileo system and China's Compass network when they are deployed. Experts said the use of a two-signal receiver that supports both GPS and Glonass increases reliability by 15 per cent.
Under a 2007 accord, Russia agreed to share the Glonass signal with India. India will be the only country to have access to the military segment of the Glonass system, which will enable the Indian military to greatly improve the accuracy of its land-, sea-, air and space-launched weapon systems. In September the two countries signed a deal to jointly manufacture Glonass/GPS twin system receivers and other navigational equipment.