It may not be Christmas Day in Russia, but today saw the launch of a Russian Proton-K/DM-2 from Pad 81 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, delivering further elements of their Glonass satellite network.
The launch is part of an extremely busy end of December period for the Russians, with the successful docking of the Progress-M55 re-supply ship yesterday being just one of a possible six launches in nine days.
Glonass is a military network of GPS satellites that enables 3D positioning, velocity measuring and timing for the user. Before today’s launch 14 Glonass satellites were in orbit – one of which being unusable.
Alongside the current system, the Russians are launching an advanced range for their network, known as Glonass-M.
Today’s launch carried two of the Glonass-M range, along with one extra Glonass for replenishing their current network.
Kosmos-2417, Kosmos-2418 and Kosmos-2419 are now in orbit – and despite a short loss of communications with two of the satellites, all three are now successfully established in their pre-programmed roles.
Live update thread:
Last Wednesday’s double Russian launch saw a Cosmos-3M rocket – carrying two satellites from the Plesetsk space pad in Russia’s Arkhangelsk region – preceded by a Soyuz-U launch of Progress M-55 from Baikonur.
The ever-reliable automated supply ship docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 7:46pm (UK time) last night. The ship was carrying food, water, fuel, clothing and other supplies, including Christmas presents for the ISS crew of US Commander Bill McArthur and his Russian mission specialist Valery Tokarev.
‘Santa’s sleigh has arrived,’ joked McArthur to Mission Control in Houston on the docking of Progress M-55. ‘Valery and I have really been very good boys this year, so we are certain there are going to be lots of goodies on board for us.’
Three Russian ships are currently docked with the ISS, two Progress supply ships and the Soyuz TMA McArthur and Tokarev arrived in – which is on station as a lifeboat. The ISS is currently expecting the arrival of its much larger friend, Shuttle Orbiter Discovery, next May – although the confirmed launch date target won’t be known for some time, as External Tank delivery dates for Discovery and Atlantis (STS-300 requirement) remain uncertain.
ISS Update Section:
The Russians were originally targeting seven launches during the late December period – however, the December 29 launch of a Proton-K/DM-3 from Baikonur, carrying KazSat, has been postponed until next February.
This leaves two more launches to follow today’s Glonass mission, with ESA’s GIOVE-A scheduled to leave on a Soyuz-FG/Fregat on December 28, followed by a Proton-M/Briz-M launch of AMC-23 (WorldSat-3) on December 29, both from Baikonur.
Soyuz-FG/Fregat – GIOVE-A December 28 Section:
Proton-M Launch (WorldSat-3) December 29 Section: