Currently there are 18 healthy dual frequency GLONASS satellites. With the two triplet launches of this year the constellation should reach the "magical" number of 24 satellites which is the amount of satellites needed to reach to so-called "full orbit constellation" (FOC). However, for FOC each of the three orbital planes of the GLONASS system will need 8 satellites. Currently the planes have 5, 5, and 8 respecitively. So most likely the launch in September will be used to populated plane I which has the oldest satellites. The December launch will then repopulate plane II.
Plane I has two rather old satellites, by GLONASS standards, one from 2003 (SVN-701 in slot 6) and one form 2004 (SVN-712 in slot 7). These might die before the end of this year. The offical planned FOC data is by the end of 2010. In 2010 two more triplet launches are planned again in September and December.
The really exiting part of that will be the launch of the the new platform, the GLONASS-K satellite. One of the 3 satellites to be launched in December 2010 will be a GLONASS-K satellite. The most important features of this new GLONASS satellite generation are:
- Longer life time, design life time of 10 years
- Much lighter satellites reducing launch costs and enabling launches with Soyus rather then with the huge and costly Proton launcher
- Addition of GPS-like CDMA signals.
The addition of CDMA, in paralel to the GLONASS original FDMA signals, will make GLONASS interoperable with GPS (and Galileo). This will enhance the interest and usage of GLONASS even further then its already rapidly spreading usage.
The GNSS future looks very interesting and very bright!