Moscow: Russia is set to increase the number of satellites comprising its Glonass navigation system to 18 by the end of 2007, the head of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) said Monday.
The Russian Glonass system is similar to the US GPS and the European Galileo satellite systems, and is designed for both civil and military use allowing users to identify their positions in real time.
"We are planning to launch two carrier rockets by the end of 2007 to put in orbit six Glonass navigation satellites," Roskosmos head Anatoly Perminov said. "As a result, the Glonass orbital group will comprise 18 satellites."
According to Perminov, a full orbital group of 24 satellites will be ready for global coverage by the end of 2009. The 18 orbiting satellites will be able to start providing military and civilian services over Russian territory, however, by the end of 2007.
Perminov also mentioned that Glonass would be fully integrated with the US GPS and European Galileo satellite navigation systems. "We will ensure the compatibility and complimentary use of the Russian Glonass system with the American GPS, and later with the European Galileo systems," he said.
Though the first satellite launch under the Glonass programme took place in 1982, a formal launch of the system took place only in 1993.
In another development, the deputy commander of Russia's Space Forces, Alexander Kvasnikov, said Monday that all future Glonass satellite launches, by Soyuz-2 carrier rockets, would be made from the Plesetsk space centre in Russia rather than from the Baikonur space center. The Baikonur space centre facilities are currently being rented by Russia from Kazakhstan.
"We are planning to gradually transfer all launches of Glonass satellites from Baikonur to the Plesetsk space center to ensure Russia's independence in launching its own spacecraft," deputy commander Kvasnikov said.
The satellites currently in use are the older Glonass version and the newer, and updated, Glonass-M version. The M-version has a longer service life of seven years and is equipped with updated antenna feeder systems and an additional navigation frequency for civilian users.
A future model, Glonass-K, is an entirely new model based on a non-pressurized platform, standardized to the specifications of the previous models' platform, Express-1000. Its estimated service life has been increased to 10-12 years, and a third, civilian, L-range frequency has been added.
The Glonass-K satellites will first be tested sometime this year.