Friday, October 09, 2015

A Russian Satellite Maneuvered Between Two Intelsat Communications Sats, Closed to Within 20 km in Geosync Orbit

A mysterious Russian military satellite parked itself between two Intelsat satellites in geosynchronous orbit for five months this year, alarming company executives and leading to classified meetings among U.S. government officials.

The Russian satellite, alternatively known as Luch or Olymp, launched in September 2014 and seven months later moved to a position directly between the Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 901 satellites, which are located within half a degree of one another 36,000 kilometers above the equator. At times, the Russian satellite maneuvered to about 10 kilometers of the Intelsat space vehicles, sources said, a distance so close that company leaders believed their satellites could be at risk.

The satellite’s movements were highlighted by Brian Weeden, technical adviser at the Secure World Foundation, in an Oct. 5 analysis of Russian rendezvous and proximity operations for SpaceNews’ sister publication, the Space Review.

“This is not normal behavior and we’re concerned,” Kay Sears, president of Intelsat General, the government services arm of Intelsat, said in an Oct. 8 interview with SpaceNews. “We absolutely need responsible operators. Space is a domain that has to be protected.”


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