Russia to complete GLONASS soon : Ivanov

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Moscow, Mar 11 (UNI) Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov today voiced confidence that GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) will be complete with 24 satellites in a year and a half.

''Despite criticism of GLONASS, the problem is not with spacecraft. We shall surely make 24 satellites in a year and a half,'' Mr Ivanov said during his visit to Antarctica.

Referring to the delay, he made it clear that the problem was with ground instruments, saying, ''They are appearing, but very slowly.'' He arrived in Antarctica to look into air transport problems facing polar researchers and to check the GLONASS satellite system's operations in low temperatures.

Mr Ivanov's trip is the first high-profile Russian visit to the ice-covered continent, where several countries including Russia have scientific research bases.

He, however, expressed satisfaction with the operation of GLONASS, with the help of which an Il-76 plane was landed in the Antarctica.

''At the moment of our flight, six satellites of GLONASS operated in orbit, even though four were enough for a normal landing,'' he told Itar-Tass news agency.

He said the device equipping the plane received the US GPS, but it was ''switched off, and the orientation was only for GLONASS, precision of which is three to ten metres''.

He said so far planes landed in the Antarctic only ''by sight, and this warranted a high skill of pilots,'', adding, ''I need to make sure how other equipment of GLONASS is working.'' He said GLONASS receivers would be tested on all-terrain vehicles.

A buoy will be delivered to the Antarctic for informing a foundering ship or plane about their bearings.

Three new GLONASS satellites were launched in orbit in December last year, making the orbital group 16-strong.

The permanent navigation coverage over Russia needs 18 and the worldwide service 24 satellites.

GLONASS is available for India to use. Russia and India signed two cooperation agreements in January 2007 on GLONASS to be used by India in the military-technical sector.

UNI XC SKB ND1846

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