A Russian Proton-M rocket failed to launch three Glonass satellites into orbit today. The Proton-M carrier launcher, took off from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan riding on a DM-3 booster, went off course by 8 degrees. The DM-3 booster with three Glonass-M satellites landed northwest of Hawaii. The satellites failed to reach their planned orbit. Glonass is the Russian equivalent of a U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS). The network requires 18 operational satellites for continuous navigation services covering the entire territory of Russia and at least 24 satellites to provide navigation services worldwide. Currently 26 satellites are in orbit, but three of them are inoperable. The recent launch was scheduled to replace those inactive satellites and maintain reserve assets providing for some redundancy.
Russia is planning to revamp its Glonass-M network with eight new satellites to be launched into orbit in the 2011-2013 time frame, to ensure the effective operation of the satellite navigation network. The network operator, Information Satellite Systems (ISS) company is already developing the next generation ‘Glonass-K’ satellite, which will have a lifetime of 10 to 12 years. It will also be lighter, weighing about 750 kg each. These satellites will gradually replace the Glonass-Ms currently employed with the network.