Sunday, March 18, 2012

Satellite Launch Roundup

galileo satellite

The last week of March has been a really busy one as far as navigational satellite launches go. Nearly all of the major constellations—with the marked exception of Russia’s GLONASS—have either launched or scheduled launches, and they are nearly all making huge steps towards completion or upgrades to the systems.

As you all know, I greatly enjoy writing about the launches of the various navigational satellites be they GPS, Galileo, GLONASS or even regional navigational systems like India’s IRNSS. It’s probably partially because I find anything involving space really interesting and also because it’s kind of exciting to see steps being taken towards a truly global GNSS.

Anyway, rather than spreading it all out, I thought I’d just do a brief overview of the launches:

  • GPS – On Wednesday, the US GPS system successfully launched the ninth Block IIF satellite from Florida. This satellite will replace an older satellite and provide better accuracy and positioning. With this launch, the GPS constellation will be nearly 3/4 of the way upgraded to the newer satellites.
  • Galileo – The seventh and eight Galileo satellites successfully launched on Friday. This launch has helped Galileo reach the one-third mark of completion, although it is arguable whether or not all of the launched satellites can be counted as functional, as the system has been plagued with problems since the start.
  • BeiDou – Today, China launched a rather secretive satellite which many believe is part of the BeiDou navigation system. If so, this launch will make the fifteenth operational satellite out of a planned constellation of 35.
  • IRNSS – The Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) completed its first launch of the year successfully this weekend. IRNSS will provide coverage over India and surrounding areas once completed. This launch was originally scheduled for earlier in March but had to be postponed. As of this launch, the system has officially reached the halfway mark.

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