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Russia successfully launches Glonass-M

Sweaty Russian space bosses heave sigh of relief

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Russia has successfully launched another Glonass-M navigation satellite into orbit today.

Russian space boffins kept themselves busy while waiting for tonight's attempt to contact lost Martian probe Phobos-Grunt by sending the Glonass-M up on a Soyuz booster from the Plesetsk space centre, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Alexei Zolotukhin, spokesman for Russian Space Forces, said that mission control was maintaining its connection with the satellite and everything was operating normally.

GLONASS, an acronym for Globalnaya navigatsionnaya sputnikovaya sistema or Global Navigation Satellite System, is Russia's version of GPS and today's satellite will join 30 others already in orbit to help Russians navigate around the place and/or blow things up.

The system currently has 23 operational satellites, but it needs 24 to provide total global coverage.

Three Glonass-Ms went up from Baikonur in Kazakhstan earlier this month to replace three that were destroyed in a failed launch last year.

According to the GLONASS website, four of the remaining satellites are in the commissioning phase, two are in maintenance, one is a spare and one is in flight tests phase.

Having a satellite navigation system not only helps you find your exit off the M20, it's also awfully helpful when it comes to weapons navigation systems, which might explain why Russia resurrected the project after the Cold War. China has made noises about having one and Europe is in the middle of its own project, Galileo. ®

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