A Soyuz 2-1B rocket will carry out a launch in support of Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system in the early hours of Friday local time, carrying the Uragan-M No.52S spacecraft into orbit. Liftoff from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia is scheduled for 03:02 Moscow Time (00:02 UTC).
The first GLONASS launch in over a year, Thursday’s launch will deploy a spacecraft to replenish the operational constellation in medium Earth orbit. Such launches are regularly undertaken using Soyuz or Proton rockets to deliver single spacecraft and groups of three respectively.
The Soviet Union began development of GLONASS in the 1970s, with the first satellite launching in 1982. Like the American Global Positioning System, GLONASS uses spacecraft in medium Earth orbits (MEO) to broadcast highly-accurate timing signals which receivers can then use to triangulate their position relative to satellites overhead of their location. GLONASS satellites are known as Uragan, meaning Hurricane.
The GLONASS constellation consists of three planes of eight satellites, for a full constellation of twenty-four spacecraft, although limited operation is possible with at least eighteen. The system achieved initial operational capability in 1993, and full capability in early 1996.
Russia had taken over the program following the ...