The following post is courtesy of spaceflightnow.com...
Three new satellites were launched by Russia on Sunday on the first leg of their mission to rejuvenate the country's system of space-based navigation that is relied upon by a host of military and civilian users.
The trio is the latest addition to the Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS, which is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System and Europe's fledgling Galileo program.
A Proton rocket gave the spacecraft a successful Christmas Day ride to space after lifting off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome at 0507 GMT (12:07 a.m. EST).
The launcher included a Block-DM upper stage that performed several burns to place the three craft in the desired circular orbit almost 12,000 miles in altitude and inclined 64.8 degrees before releasing them into space at 0839 GMT (3:39 a.m. EST), a report from RIA Novosti said.
The payload consisted of two upgraded GLONASS satellites, which feature longer service lives of seven years, while also substantially increasing the precision of positioning data produced using the constellation. The third spacecraft is an older model with an anticipated lifetime of three years.
Once operational, each 3,000-pound satellite will enter service to provide exact positioning, velocity, and timing information to millions of users around the world, including the Russian armed forces.