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    Putin orders completing GLONASS satellite system before 2008

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    MOSCOW, December 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that he wanted Russia's GLONASS global navigation satellite system ready before 2008.

    "The GLONASS system should be created before 2008, as it was originally planned," Putin told government members. "We have the possibility. Let us see what can be done in 2006-2007."

    Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said three new satellites had been successfully put into orbit Sunday to expand the navigation system.

    He said 19 out of 24 GLONASS satellites were currently in orbit.

    "I am convinced that by 2008, all the 24 satellites will be in orbit as part of the GLONASS federal target program," Ivanov said.

    The president noted however that the satellites should be put into orbit earlier.

    Vyacheslav Davidenko, a Russian airspace agency (Roskosmos) spokesman, said Monday that the three satellites launched Sunday were already operating normally, and control over them was exercised from GLONASS mission control based Krasnoznamensk, near Moscow.

    He also said the orbital group was to be expanded to 24 satellites in three orbital planes, with eight spacecraft in each plane.

    The first launch under the GLONASS program took place October 12, 1982, but the system was only formally launched September 24, 1993. The GLONASS system comprises radio navigation satellites that track the whereabouts of consumers on land, at sea and in space.

    GLONASS satellites were designed and built by the research and production center based in Krasnoyarsk, Southern Siberia.

    The satellites currently in use are of two modifications - GLONASS and its updated version GLONASS-M. The latter satellites have a longer service life of seven years and are equipped with updated antenna feeder systems and an additional navigation frequency for civilian users.

    The future modification, GLONASS-K, is an entirely new model based on a non-pressurized platform, standardized to the specifications of the previous models' platform, Express-1000.

    GLONASS-Ks are small-sized spacecraft that are considerably lighter than their previous models, which makes them less costly to put into orbit. Their weight also allows the use of a wider range of carrier rockets.

    GLONASS-Ks' estimated service life has been increased to 10-12 years and a third "civilian" L-range frequency was added.

    Tests on GLONASS-K satellites are scheduled for 2007.

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