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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Launch of Navigation Satellites Delayed

The Federal Space Agency said Friday that the launch of three satellites aimed at bolstering the Glonass navigation system was delayed because of a malfunction in an earlier launched satellite.

Agency chief Anatoly Perminov also voiced hope that the United States would extend the deadline to retire its space shuttles beyond 2011 and said he had heard unofficially that it was possible.

The Glonass project is ultimately supposed to have 24 satellites to provide navigation services worldwide to compete with the U.S. Global Positioning System, but it only has 18 satellites in orbit.

Another three of the satellites had been scheduled to launch Friday, but Perminov said it was postponed because a satellite of the same type that was launched earlier suffered an unspecified technical problem.

Experts need at least a month to figure out what the problem is before launching more satellites, he said.

“We still hope to launch all six Glonass satellites before the year’s end,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is in charge of the Glonass project, said Friday that 18 satellites now in the system are enough to provide navigation services within Russia. He acknowledged, however, that the development of the project has been slowed by the shortage of electronic maps.

“The problems aren’t in space but on the ground,” he said.

Efforts to launch domestic production of Glonass receivers also have faced difficulties, according to Russian media reports. Locally made Glonass receivers appear to be bulky and outdated, compared with GPS receivers, some of which are the size of cell phones or even included in the newest generation cell phones.

Experts have said another major problem with Glonass has been the shorter life span and poor reliability of its satellites compared to U.S. GPS satellites. Newer Glonass-M satellites are supposed to have a life span of seven years, compared with three years for their predecessors.

Perminov, meanwhile, said he would prefer to see further shuttle missions to the space station, now in orbit 360 kilometers above Earth.

U.S. space agency NASA plans six more missions by its fleet of aging space shuttles by late next year or early 2011 after the construction of the $100 billion international space station is completed. The shuttles will then be retired.

“From some sources we have learned that it is possible to extend the life of the shuttle beyond 2011,” Perminov told reporters.

“Then the situation would change substantially, and it would be possible to work jointly with the Americans, unlike now, when the main burden [for the space station] lies with the Russian side,” Perminov said.

Perminov said he had not been told this through official channels.

He added that NASA’s new chief, Charles Bolden, would visit the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Wednesday in his first foreign trip as chief.

A new rocket and capsule to transport astronauts to the space station is being developed but will not be operational until about 2015. Until then, NASA will rely on the Federal Space Agency and must pay $50 million per seat for flights to the space station by Soyuz capsules. 

(AP, Reuters)