updated 9/25/2009 10:39:46 AM ET 2009-09-25T14:39:46

Russia's space chief said Friday the launch of three satellites aimed at bolstering its planned GPS-type navigation system was delayed because of a malfunction in an earlier launched satellite, news agencies reported.

The comments by Federal Space Agency head Anatoly Perminov signaled yet more problems for the Global Navigation Satellite System, which has faced repeated technical issues and delays.

The GLONASS project is ultimately supposed to have 24 satellites to provide navigation services worldwide to compete with the U.S. Global Positioning System, but it only has 18 satellites in orbit.

Another three of the satellites had been scheduled to launch Friday, but Perminov said it was postponed because a satellite of the same type that was launched earlier suffered an unspecified technical problem.

Experts need at least a month to figure what it is before launching more satellites, he said.

"We must make sure that the satellites to be launched won't have that problem," Perminov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. "We still hope to launch all six GLONASS satellites before the year's end."

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is in charge of the GLONASS project, said Friday that 18 satellites now in the system are enough to provide navigation services within Russia. He acknowledged, however, that the development of the project has been slowed by the shortage of electronic maps.

"The problems aren't in space, but on the ground," he was quoted by agencies as saying.

Efforts to launch domestic production of GLONASS receivers also have faced difficulties, according to Russian media reports. Locally made GLONASS receivers appear to be bulky and outdated, compared with GPS receivers, some of which are the size of cell phones or even included in the newest generation cell phones.

Experts have said that another major problem with GLONASS has been the shorter lifespan and poor reliability of its satellites compared to U.S. GPS satellites.

Newer GLONASS-M satellites are supposed to have a lifetime of seven years, compared to three years for their predecessors.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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