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Putin wants satellite navigation for his dog

Russia’s satellite navigation system is still taking shape, but President Vladimir Putin already has a plan for how to use it: to keep tabs on his black labrador.

Putin yesterday listened to First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov as he briefed the cabinet on the development of Glonass, the acronym for Global Navigation Satellite System. The Russian leader then asked: “When will I be able to buy the necessary equipment for my dog Koni so that she doesn’t run too far?”

Ivanov responded that collars for dogs and cats with satellite-guided positioning equipment will be available for private consumers in the middle of next year.

Glonass was developed during the Soviet times as a response to the US Global Positioning System, or GPS. The system originally had 24 satellites, but their number had dwindled after the 1991 Soviet collapse. Thanks to Russia’s booming oil revenues, the government has earmarked funds to revive the system to its full strength and offer it to global consumers.

Ivanov said that a Russian booster rocket was set to put another three Glonass satellites into orbit on Tuesday, bringing their total number to 18 — the number necessary to provide navigation services over the entire Russian territory.

Ivanov said that the system would be available worldwide by 2010, for which it would need to have 24 satellites.

Missile launch

A Russian submarine in the Barents Sea successfully test-fired a new ballistic missile today, hitting a target on the Kamchatka peninsula on Russia’s Pacific coast minutes later, the ministry of defence said.

“The launch was carried out from the submarine platform in line with military training. The rocket warhead arrived down range at the designated time,” the ministry said.

The RSM-54, or Sineva, is a hybrid ballistic missile that in its final stages becomes a modified cruise missile. In this guise, the warhead cannot be targeted by anti-missile systems that rely on a ballistic trajectory for their calculations. Today’s launch is the second such test-firing of the Sineva in less than a week. A general said Russia could thwart any anti-missile system in the future.

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