Russia delays Glonass-K satellite launch

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow: The launch of Russia’s second Glonass-K satellite has been delayed until 2013 due to technical flaws, an official said.

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Defence ministry spokesman Col. Alexey Zolotukhin said: “The launch has been postponed due to technical flaws in the Fregat booster made by the Lavochkin space company.”

A Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle carrying the Glonass satellite had previously been scheduled to lift off from the Plesetsk space centre by the end of 2012.

The new date for the launch will be set at a meeting of the state commission on spacecraft testing once all flaws have been fixed, Zolotukhin said.

The satellite will be tested in orbit through 2015 before it becomes operational.

Russia launched its first Glonass-K satellite, which has a service life of 10 years, in 2011.

Glonass is Russia’s answer to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), and is designed for both military and civilian uses.

The Glonass project was rocked by fraud allegations in November, with the interior ministry accusing some Glonass officials of embezzling 6.5 billion rubles ($200 million) of the programme’s funds.

The investigation into Glonass was backed by Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, Sergei Ivanov, who said that the probe into this fraud has been ongoing since 2010.

The chief designer of the Glonass system, Yury Urlichich, was fired in November.

A group of 31 Glonass satellites is currently in orbit, with 24 Glonass-M operating to provide global coverage, four in reserve and one Glonass-K currently undergoing trials.

Russia may spend 346.5 billion rubles (almost $12 billion) on the maintenance and further development of the Glonass network in 2012-2020, according to sources cited by Russia’s Kommersant business daily.

By 2020, Russia plans to have 30 satellites in orbit, including six in reserve. Russia plans to launch 13 Glonass-M satellites in 2012-2020 to support the orbital grouping, with 22 new-generation Glonass-Ks set to replace those that are outdated. Russia will build eight Proton-M and 11 Soyuz-2.1b carrier rockets to orbit these satellites.