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    Russia in talks with Cuba, Venezuela on joint use of Glonass satellites

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    Russia is negotiating with Cuba and Venezuela on the joint use of Russia's Glonass navigation satellites, the head of the federal space agency said on Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is negotiating with Cuba and Venezuela on the joint use of Russia's Glonass navigation satellites, the head of the federal space agency said on Tuesday.

    "I have just returned from a working visit to Cuba. They are very interested in cooperating with us in the use of the Glonass system, which will cover the globe by 2010," Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov told reporters in Moscow.

    He said Moscow and Havana are working on a space cooperation agreement and have considered ways of jointly using earth remote sensing satellites.

    Russia has previously said it intends to share its space technology with Cuba, and has begun discussions on building a space center in the country.

    Perminov also said Russia would like to station several ground based space communication facilities in Venezuela, but stressed that they would have no military application.

    Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System) is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), which is designed for both military and civilian use, and allows users to identify their positions in real time.

    Russia plans to launch six satellites in the next three months to increase the existing Glonass grouping to 18-19 spacecraft.

    According to the Central Research Institute for Machine Building, the Glonass system currently consists of 16 satellites, with 13 satellites working in orbit, two undergoing maintenance, and one due to be withdrawn from the orbital grouping.

    Perminov earlier said that the number of Glonass satellites will be increased from the current 16 to 30 by 2011.

    A total of 9.9 billion rubles (around $400 million at the current exchange rate) was allocated for Glonass from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion rubles ($190 million) in 2006.

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a directive on September 12 allocating an additional $2.6 billion to develop the Glonass system.

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