A Russian Proton rocket went out of control and slammed into the steppes of Kazakhstan mere moments after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome last week, reports SpaceflightNow.
The government booster was carrying three Russian GLONASS navigation satellites — Nos. 48, 49 and 50 on the ill-fated mission. It was the first time in the post-Soviet history that the Proton rocket, the largest vehicle in the Russian rocket fleet, crashed in the vicinity of its launch facility.
The program has suffered five failures in the past two-and-a-half years, mostly due to upper stage issues. Three other GLONASS satellites were lost in a botched launch in late 2010 due to a fuel miscalculation that prevented the vehicle from reaching orbit.
Only the United States GPS system and the Russian GLONASS system are global operational satnav systems. China is in the process of expanding its regional Beidou navigation system into the global Compass navigation system by 2020, while the European Union’s Galileo system is in initial deployment phase, scheduled to be fully operational by 2020 at the earliest. France, India and Japan are also in the process of developing regional navigation systems, according to Wikipedia.
The first GPS III satellite is expected to arrive at the Cape in 2014, ready for launch by the U.S. Air Force in 2015. GPS III involves new ground stations and new satellites, with additional navigation signals for both civilian and military users. The US Air Force plans to purchase up to 32 GPS III satellites.
In other space news, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket has successfully deployed the second in a series of mobile satphone satellites for the U.S. Navy’s MUOS system that will eventually span the globe with 4 geosynchrounous satellites using 3G-cellular technology. When completed by 2017, the MUOS constellation will feature four primary birds and one spare in orbit to ring the planet.
Next up for United Launch Alliance is a Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) bird, a high capacity satellite planned for use in partnership by the United States DoD and the Australian Department of Defense. WGS will offer 4.875 GHz of instantaneous switchable bandwidth. Boeing recently shipped its sixth WGS satellite for a scheduled launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on August 6. Boeing is currently working on a seventh WGS, having received a $182 million contract from the Air Force for the construction of follow-on satellites in August 2010.
AEHF was supposed to replace the older Milstar system, and will operate at 44 GHz Uplink and 20 GHz Downlink. The original satellite was stranded in the wrong orbit but was boosted into the right postion over a period of months by its electric propulsion system. AEHF 2 was launched in May, 2012. AEHF-3 and 4 haven’t yet made it off the launch pad. AEHF-4 is projected to launch sometime in 2017.
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