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Russian GPS project hit by firing of top spacecraft designer

Russia: The chief designer or Russia’s scandal-hit GLONASS satellite navigation system, Yury Urlichich, has been sacked from his services, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported. The decision was made by the government’s military-industrial commission, which is headed Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Russia’s rival to GPS was rocked by fraud allegations earlier this month, with the Interior Ministry accusing unnamed GLONASS officers of embezzling 6.5 billion rubles (USD 200 million) of programme’s funds.

The crackdown on GLONASS was backed by head of the Kremlin administration, Sergei Ivanov, an ex-Defense Minister and alleged Rogozin ally who said that the investigation into the GLONASS fraud was ongoing since 2010.

The GLONASS programme was in the works since the 1970s, but underwent a radical revamp in 2001. The 24 satellites comprising the system were put into orbit by 2010, though not after several costly malfunctions and launch failures. The program cost 140 billion rubles (USD 4.4 billion) to implement, and its budget for 2012-2020 stands at a further 326 billion rubles (USD 10 billion).

Source: Ottawa Citizen