Soyuz Launch Restores Glonass to Full Strength

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Russia’s constellation of global navigation satellites has 24 working satellites on orbit for the first time since 1996 following the Oct. 2 launch of the Glonass M spacecraft aboard a Soyuz 2-1b rocket.

The modernized rocket lifted off at 4:15 p.m. EDT (12:15 a.m. Moscow time) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

ISS Reshetnev, the Krasnoyarsk, Russia-based builder of the Glonass satellites, reported that the satellite was in good health following launch.

“The spacecraft launch went off according to plan,” the company said in a statement. “Thus far, Glonass M’s mechanical subsystems have been deployed. The satellite is Earth-oriented and functioning properly.”

The launch was the first for a Soyuz rocket since the Aug. 24 mishap that destroyed a Progress supply ship bound for the international space station. However, the Oct. 2 mission was flown by an upgraded Soyuz featuring a different upper stage than the one that failed in August. The first Soyuz-U launch since the failure is slated for Oct. 30 when the rocket is slated to fly another Progress craft. If that goes well, manned Soyuz flights would resume in November.