Russia launched a third Glonass-K1 navigation satellite on October 26 aboard a Soyuz-2 equipped with a Fregat upper stage. The launch was the first addition to the Russian navigation constellation since March and the first of the next-generation K1 variant since 2014.
The Soyuz-2 was launched at 19:08 UTC carrying the Glonass-K1 №3 satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a launch facility 800 kilometers north of Moscow. Following a successful launch, the satellite was deployed from the rocket’s Fregat upper stage into its intended orbit over 19,000 kilometers above Earth.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the country’s Glonass-K satellites, which are produced by the Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems Company, will be a significant improvement on the Glonass-M, which it will replace. The new variant offers improved accuracy, reliability, and fuel efficiency.
In addition to its primary mission offering navigation services for commercial and civilian applications, the Glonass-K satellites will also transmit information for COSPAS-SARSAT, an international search, and rescue system.
The satellite launched today is the third Glonass-K1, a transitional variant for the Glonass-K2 spacecraft. The first two Glonass-K1 satellites were launched in 2011 and 2014.
Russian had initially planned to then transition to the upgraded Glonass-K2 satellites. However, according to Reshetnev CEO Nikolai Testoyedov, sanctions restricting the purchase of radiation-resistant electronic components stunted the development of the K2 and forced the country to instead commission nine additional K1 satellites from Reshetnev.
The Glonass-K1 №3 satellite is the first of the new batch of nine and joins 24 operational Glonass satellites in orbit, said the Russian Ministry of Defence.
Russia’s Glonass constellation is the country’s alternative to the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS). Development of the system began in the Soviet Union in 1976 with the first satellite being launched in October 1982 aboard a Proton-K. Since then, a total of 141 Glonass satellites have been launched into orbit around Earth