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Russia launches vital navigation satellite


MOSCOW (AFP): Russia Saturday launched a satellite vital to the deployment of its own navigation system after a similar attempt failure prompted the Kremlin to sack two top space officials.

The Federal Space Agency said in a statement that the Soyuz-2 rocket blasted off without a hitch from Russia's northern Plesetsk launchpad at 6.07 am (0307 GMT).

But the main test will come later Saturday when the high-tech Glonass-K navigation satellite detaches from its booster rocket after reaching its intended orbit.

The launch is being watched closely by Russian space officials after the last attempt to put three Glonass satellites in orbit failed spectacularly on December 5.

An error prevented the craft from reaching its set distance from Earth and the satellites ended up plummeting into the Pacific off the US state of Hawaii.

A furious President Dmitry Medvedev fired two top space officials after a probe into the embarrassing failure found that it was caused by a simply fuel miscalculation.

The three satellites would have completed a Glonass system whose research had been started by the Soviet Union in 1976 before being interrupted and then picked up again by the country's president-turned premier Vladimir Putin.

Russia's de facto leader has vowed to place Glonass readers on every car made in Russia by 2012 and hailed the system as an example of how the country can claw back its Soviet-era technological might.

But analysts said that Glonass would more importantly enable Russia to finally target its missiles from space -- something that other armies using the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS) have been doing for years.

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Russia  Satellite  

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