Three GLONASS satellites put into orbit

Russia's Proton-M carrier rocket put threeGLONASS satellites into orbit. Photo by Oleg Urusov.

Russia's Proton-M carrier rocket put threeGLONASS satellites into orbit. Photo by Oleg Urusov.

Russia's Proton-M carrier rocket put three GLONASS satellites into orbit, a spokesman for the Russian Space Forces said.

The Proton-M rocket blasted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.

"The launch and flight of the carrier rocket, as well as the separation of the satellites, took place on schedule," Alexei Zolotukhin said. He also said the satellites' onboard systems were working well.

Glonass - the Global Navigation Satellite System - is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian use. Both systems enable users to determine their positions to within a few meters.

Russia currently has a total of 26 Glonass satellites in orbit, but two of them are not functional. The system requires 18 operational satellites for continuous navigation services covering the entire territory of Russia and at least 24 satellites to provide navigation services worldwide.

Only two out of the three satellites that were put into orbit on Thursday will be put into operation. The third will be kept in reserve. By mid-October, a total of 23 satellites will be operational.

Russian Space Forces are planning to carry out two more Proton-M carrier rockets this year to put into orbit six more satellites, allowing continuous worldwide navigation.

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