Russia launched a next-generation navigation satellite to join its GLONASS constellation Sunday.
Liftoff of the Uragan-K No.15L satellite, aboard a Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat rocket, took place at 23:08:42 Moscow Time (19:08:42 UTC) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the northwest of the country. Spacecraft separation is expected to occur a little over three and a half hours after launch.
GLONASS is Russia’s global satellite navigation system, analogous to the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and European Galileo constellations; like its counterparts, it is available for both military and civilian use.
GLONASS was begun by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, with the first satellite reaching orbit in 1982. The name GLONASS is the abbreviation of Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema – or Global Navigation Satellite System – while individual satellites are named Uragan, meaning Hurricane.
The earliest Uragan satellites had a design life of only three years, launching in trios atop Proton-K carrier rockets. This short lifespan, combined with the fallout from the end of the Soviet Union, at which point the project was inherited by Russia, meant that by the mid-1990s satellites were failing faster than they could be replaced, and the constellation fell into disrepair.
Upgraded second-generation Uragan-M satellites were introduced ...