Tuesday 23 April 2024

Dark moves at Geosynchronous altitude: Mentor 6 and Luch (Olymp) 2 have repositioned

Mentor 6 on April 16, 2024. Click image to enlarge

A number of SIGINT satellites in geosynchronous orbit have been moving lately. A small roundup:

There is the brand new SIGINT satellite Mentor 10 (USA 353, 2024-067A) that is slowly drifting westwards to its operational position by ~1.35 degrees per day, since its launch and initial insertion at longitude 100 E on April 9. This was discussed in this previous blogpost

But an earlier Mentor (also known as ADVANCED ORION), Mentor 6 (2012-034A), has also been moving recently, from longitude 55.6 E to 51.1 E. This move happened somewhere between the second week of January and the second week of April. The image above shows it on April 16.

The Russians too have recently moved one of their SIGINT satellites again, LUCH (Olymp) 2 (2023-031A). It has now been placed near longitude 4.75 E, close to the commercial satellite ASTRA 4A. The daily distance of LUCH (Olymp) 2 to ASTRA 4A varies between 20 and 70 km. The move was initiated on March 26 and completed by April 2, 2024. The image below shows it on April 16:


Luch (Olymp) 2 near Astra 4A. Click image to enlarge


click diagram to enlarge

click diagram to enlarge

This is the fifth relocation of Luch (Olymp) 2 since launch in May 2023 (see diagram above). Each time it is relocated, it is put close to a commercial telecom satellite (see also the second part of this earlier post). The purpose is eavesdropping on c.q. mapping of  communications and data streams, and potentially also interference.

PAN/NEMESIS-1 (2009-047A), the enigmatic US SIGINT satellite that played the same game since 2009 (see my 2016 article in The Space Review), is still slowly drifting westwards at an average (but somewhat variable) rate of ~0.03 degrees in longitude per day:

Click diagram to enlarge

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