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Russia to launch four U.S. satellites in May - space agency

MOSCOW, April 11 (RIA Novosti) - A Soyuz-FG carrier rocket is scheduled to lift off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on May 20 to put four U.S. Globalstar satellites into orbit, the Russian space agency said Wednesday.

Globalstar is a low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite-based telecommunications system founded by U.S.-based Loral Corporation and Qualcomm Inc. It provides affordable, dependable high quality satellite voice and data services across North America and to over 120 countries worldwide.

"Preparations for the launch of a Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with a Fregat booster, carrying four Globalstar telecommunications satellites started April 10 at the Baikonur space center," the Federal Space Agency said in a statement on its Web site.

The current Globalstar orbital constellation comprises 48 LEO satellites, with an additional four satellites in orbit as spares.

Each Globalstar satellite consists of an antenna, a trapezoidal body, two solar arrays and a magnetometer, and operates at an altitude of 1,414km (876 miles). The service life of a Globalstar satellite is over seven years.

Commercial launches of the Soyuz carrier rockets are managed by Starsem, a European-Russian joint venture, which comprises EADS SPACE, Arianespace, the Russian Federal Space Agency, and the Samara-based Progress design and production center.

Created in 1996, Starsem offers the Soyuz for a broad range of mission needs, including satellite telecommunications systems, scientific spacecraft, and Earth observation meteorological platforms.

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