Russia's $2 billion project to rival America's GPS suffers setback
On Sunday, three satellites meant to complete the highly touted Glonass system crashed in the Pacific after veering off course, reportedly due to a programming error.
Russia's efforts to launch a full-fledged alternative to America's Global Positioning System (GPS) suffered a major setback on Sunday, when three satellites meant to complete the system crashed into the Pacific Ocean.Skip to next paragraph
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A programming error reportedly caused the Russian Proton-M booster rocket carrying the three Glonass-M units to veer off course following a successful blastoff from Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. That led controllers to abort the mission and splash the rocket down about 1,000 miles northwest of Hawaii.
Russian space experts say they're taking the estimated $500 million loss "philosophically," but admit that the blow to Russian hopes and national prestige is a painful one.
Medvedev asks for names of those responsible
Last week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hailed the imminent completion of the Glonass project as a major step in Russia's efforts to modernize its economic base, join the ranks of advanced space-faring nations, and end the widespread perception that Russia's former Soviet space program has degenerated into little more than a "rocket taxi" that ferries supplies and tourists into orbit.
"Before the end of the year, the satellite fleet for Glonass will be fully formed, and the next two years will see the finalization of key digital navigation maps and the commencement of the use of the system’s navigators," Mr. Medvedev said in an upbeat State of the Nation address.
Today, an angry Medvedev ordered Russia's prosecutor-general, Yury Chaika, to investigate and name those responsible for the failure. He also demanded a full audit of the nearly $2 billion the Kremlin has spent on the orbiting navigation network.
Russia's answer to GPS
Glonass, Russia's answer to GPS, is intended as a revived and vastly upgraded version of a mainly-military former Soviet satellite network that fell apart due to underfunding and neglect around 1995. The new Glonass is intended to serve both military and civilian needs, and will compete with GPS as well as the planned Chinese Compass system and the European Union's future Galileo positioning system.