Russia to set world record with 39 space launches in 2009

By RIA Novosti,

Moscow : Russia is planning to set a world record by conducting a total of 39 space launches in 2009 despite the current global financial crisis, the head of the Russian Space Agency said on Monday.

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“We have scheduled a record number of launches for next year. We are planning to carry out 39 launches, half of them commercial and civilian satellites,” Anatoly Perminov said.

Russia conducted 27 space launches in 2008 and 26 launches in 2007, becoming the world’s leader in this sphere.

Perminov said Russia would meet all its obligations before international partners in a variety of joint space programs.

“Despite the difficulties created by the crisis, we are preparing to launch in 2009 four manned space missions instead of two, and we are planning to send six Progress cargo vehicles to the International Space Station instead of four,” Russia’s space chief said.

Perminov also said there were no changes in Russia’s Glonass satellite program.

“We will conduct two launches with three satellites each to increase the Glonass orbital grouping by six satellites,” he said.

The Glonass grouping currently consists of 19 satellites, of which 16 are operational, two are undergoing maintenance, and one is due to be withdrawn. The system requires 18 satellites for continuous navigation services covering the entire territory of the Russian Federation, and 24 satellites to provide services worldwide.

A total of 9.9 billion rubles ($360 million at the current exchange rate) was allocated for Glonass from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion rubles ($170 million) in 2006.

Six new Glonass satellites were added to the network in 2008.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a directive on September 12 allocating an additional $2.6 billion to develop the system.

Anatoly Perminov said in September that the number of satellites in the Glonass network would be increased to 30 by 2011.