FIS (Russia)
MOSCOW-- After the successful launch of a Proton rocket carrier with the next three GLONASS satellites developed at the Krasnoyarsk Krai-based RPA AM by Reshetnev, the orbital fleet of Russia's proprietary global navigation system is to be replenished with at least 18 more satellites, which will be put to orbit by the end of this year. An unmanned rocket carrying three Glonass navigation satellites took off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday. The Proton booster rocket blasted off at 11:35 a.m. Moscow time and entered low-Earth orbit eight minutes later, a Space Forces spokesman said.

Kazakhstan suspended Proton launches in September after a similar booster filled with highly toxic heptyl fuel plunged into open countryside near the industrial city of Zhezkazgan a few minutes after takeoff. Russia rents Baikonur, established in the 1950s by Soviet scientists, under a long-term contract with Kazakhstan.

Russia's Glonass system, which uses Cold War-era military technology, is designed to compete with the global positioning system, or GPS, and is being jointly developed with India. A total of 9.88 billion rubles ($380 million) was allocated for Glonass from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion rubles ($181 million) in 2006, RIA-Novosti reported. A total of 24 satellites are to be in orbit to provide global coverage by the end of 2009, the Federal Space Agency says. Glonass satellite launches had been put on hold after September's rocket failure.

Source: RIA-Novosti news agency, October 29, 2007.