Search This Blog

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Russia launches final satellites for its own GPS

Moscow (Russia) - The last three satellites for a soviet GPS network named GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) were launched without incident yesterday in an improved Proton-M carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The three satellites complete the system which will be fully operational in 2009, providing world-wide GPS access to GLONASS devices.
Russia's full fleet of satellites include 29 separate points for GLONASS. Today there are only 15 satellites operating, but these provide full navigation in all parts of Russia and some surrounding countries.Like the U.S. GPS system, the idea for GLONASS began in the 1970s. When the Russian economy collapsed in the 1990s, funding was stripped and the project's uncertain future was left hanging in the balance. A reinvigorated Russia under Vladimir Putin, however, has seen a significant infusion of cash and the program is now well funded.
The military-run GLONASS mapping system works over most of Russia and is expected to cover the globe by the end of 2009, once all its 24 navigational satellites are operating.
A space rocket blasted off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome on the steppes of neighbouring ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, from which Russia rents the facility.
"The launch was carried out smoothly at 10:32 p.m. (1932 GMT)," RIA news agency quoted a spokesman for the Russian space agency as saying. "We expect satellites to separate from the booster on the orbit at 2:24 a.m. (2324 GMT)".
Work on GLONASS -- or Global Navigation Satellite System -- began in the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s to give its armed forces exact bearings around the world.
The collapse of the Russian economy in the late 1990s drained funds and the plans withered, but President Vladimir Putin has ensured the project is now being lavishly funded from a brimming government budget.
Officials said GLONASS would mainly be used alongside the U.S. global positioning system, which Washington can switch off for civilian subscribers, as it did during recent military operations in Iraq.
The program will be fully operational in 2009 and will offer an alternative to GPS users who don't want to rely on American technology, or trickery. The early American GPS system was programmed to generate false data by the receiver. This error was called "Selective Availability" and would result in GPS coordinates that were a few hundred meters off of true coordinates. This slight error was programmed into the satellites so that, without a compensating device capable of correcting for the error (typically a military device), the GPS would produce false data that was not accurate or reliable for a given spot. Selective availability was turned off in 2000, following a 1996 executive order mandating that users receive a non-degraded signal globally. The feature still exists and/ can be re-enabled at any time.

Christmas came a day late for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with the successful Wednesday arrival of a Russian cargo ship

Fresh Cargo Ship Delivers Gifts to Station Astronauts

with the successful Wednesday arrival of a Russian cargo ship bearing gifts and fresh supplies.

The unmanned Progress 27 space freighter arrived at the station's Russian-built Pirs docking compartment after a three-day chase to catch up to the high-flying orbital laboratory.

"Everything is nominal," said veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, an Expedition 16 flight engineer aboard the ISS, as the cargo ship neared the outpost. "Okay, we feel the contact."

Malenchenko stood ready to take remote control of Progress 27 should its automated systems fail during today's docking. But the cargo ship smoothly moored itself to its Pirs port at 3:14 a.m. EST (0814 GMT) as both spacecraft flew about 200 miles (321 kilometers) above southern Europe.

Tucked aboard the Progress 27 are about 2.5 tons of propellant, oxygen, fresh fruit, equipment and other vital supplies for the station's three-astronaut crew. Included in that cargo are Christmas presents for Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Dan Tani, as well as birthday gifts for Malenchenko, who turned 46 on Saturday.

"These include selected concerts of Vladimir Vinokur, video congratulations from home and from his relatives and friends," Russia's Interfax News Agency quoted Federal Space Agency as saying. Copies of Malenchenko's favorite films and television programs were also included, Interfax reported.

The astronauts are expected to open the hatches between the ISS and Progress 27 at about 6:30 a.m. EST (1130 GMT).

Progress 27 launched early Sunday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with 2,921 pounds (1,325 kilograms) of dry cargo stored aboard. About 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of oxygen and 1,918 pounds (870 kilograms) of rocket propellant were also packed inside the cargo ship, NASA said.

Whitson has said the cargo ship is also delivering fresh tomatoes and onions, fixings will lend themselves to a special dinner of "space hamburgers" once she and

her crewmates begin unloading Progress 27.

"Our standard menu no longer has re-hydratable hamburger patties in it, so I had requested, in advance, to have patties and dinner rolls in my preference foods," Whitson wrote in a recent Expedition 16 journal entry.

Whitson dreamed up her personal version of orbital hamburgers during her Expedition 5 mission to the ISS in 2002. An assortment of handy, and spicy, sauces to hold the concoction together was a must when she recreated them last month for her Expedition 16 crewmates.

"Space hamburgers went over pretty well, because they were different than the standard stuff," Whitson wrote. "But there is some assembly required...using the [sauces] of choice to hold them together!"

online games and gamers look set to emerge in 2008.

Online games battle for top spot

Challenges to the dominance of World of Warcraft over online games and gamers look set to emerge in 2008.
So say industry watchers looking back on a year in which the field as a whole matured and signs emerged which show how the industry sector is developing.

During the year Blizzard's flagship title consolidated its hold on gamers as its subscriber base kept growing.

But debuts by Age of Conan, Warhammer Online and many others may mean that hold begins to weaken.

Numbers game

"We expected, like all the analysts, to see a dip in subscriptions in 2007," said Paul Younger, an editor at the Inc Gamers network. "As it turns out we've seen the rise and rise of WoW."

At the start of 2007, the number of active subscribers playing World of Warcraft was eight million but by the end of summer the number had passed 9.3 million.

According to statistics gathered by Nielsen the average WoW player racks up 17 hours of play per week - 12 hours more than its nearest competitor The Sims. As such it was the most played PC game between April and November 2007.

In online games such as World of Warcraft players create an avatar or character, give them a profession and venture out into the game world to battle monsters, find treasure and turn their novice into a powerful hero or heroine.

Mr Younger said online games such as Lord of the Rings Online, Tabula Rasa and Hellgate: London were widely tipped to poach significant numbers of players from Blizzard but, he said, it was not clear that had happened.

"There seems to be an inability by other massively multi-player game makers to capture what Blizzard managed to capture," said Mr Younger.

Rob Fahey, industry veteran and columnist for, said the new launches and continued success of WoW showed how strong the industry had become.

"There's plenty of choice out there for players now," he said "You can even play massively multiplayer dancing games, if killing monsters isn't your thing."

Another sign of the growing maturity of online gaming was the notable failure of titles such as Vanguard.

Although released in February it was error prone and has taken months to become reliable enough.

"It's clear that it's no longer acceptable to release buggy games, and players aren't prepared to pay a monthly fee to test an unfinished product," he said.

Fantasy figures

The importance of the final polish is also thought to be behind the delayed arrival of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Both were originally due in 2007 but now are expected before next summer.

Many see these as serious contenders to WoW because like that game they trade on a long history of earlier works.

Conan is familiar to many from Robert E Howard's original stories, the films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and the many contemporary novels that explored the world of the iconic barbarian.

Warhammer is the creation of UK firm Games Workshop and has many fans who played the tabletop game, the role-playing system, the earlier games and has read the books set in its world.

Perhaps more importantly the titles are attempting to move online gaming on from the mechanics established by Blizzard.

In Warhammer many areas of the game are contested and factions will battle to regain control of these areas. Solo players as well as those who prefer pitched battles will contribute to this back and forth that will see a lot of the game world's territory change hands many times.

By contrast Age of Conan is explicitly aiming at a mature audience - in particular combat will be bloody and realistic. The game will also allow player teams, or guilds, to set up and run their own cities or lay siege to each other's strongholds.

But, said Philip Wride, boss of consultancy firm Elysium Gaming, it could be something entirely outside the field that has a big impact on online gamine in 2008.

In the UK the Byron Review is scrutinising video games with a view to drawing up new regulations and guidelines governing them.

"It's about educating parents more than anything and perhaps making changes in terms of rating systems," he said.

This was likely to mean best practice guidelines for parents but may eventually involve new legislation.

"That would alter how online games are both portrayed and played," said Mr Wride.

Find here

Home II Large Hadron Cillider News