It's a bit behind schedule, but Russia's GPS-challenging GLONASS satellite navigation looks to have just taken a fairly big step forward, with three satellites now on their way into orbit after hitching a ride on a Proton-K booster rocket that blasted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan earlier today. According to Reuters, this is also the first launch of a Proton-K rocket since launches were suspended in September, after a booster failed and spilled highly toxic fuel into the Kazakh countryside. No word if Russia still expects the entire GLONASS system to be ready by 2009 as it has said earlier, but it has five more satellites to launch by the end of the year if it wants to keep up the pace it set out for itself.

[Photo courtesy of RussiaToday]