Proton rocket launches categorized Russian authorities satellite tv for pc – Spaceflight Now


A Proton rocket lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit score: Roscosmos

A Proton rocket launched Sunday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, boosting right into a high-altitude orbit a categorized Russian authorities satellite tv for pc Western analysts imagine is designed to snoop on different international locations’ radio transmissions.

The Proton rocket, made Russia’s Khrunichev State Analysis and Manufacturing Area Middle, lifted off at 7:13 p.m. EDT (2313 GMT) Sunday from Baikonur, then headed east to propel its Russian authorities payload into orbit. Six hydrazine-fueled RD-276 engines powered the 191-foot-tall (58-meter) rocket off the launch pad with 2.5 million kilos of thrust.

Engine firings by the Proton rocket’s second and third phases continued powering the mission into house, then Breeze M higher stage, additionally made by Khrunichev, took over for a collection of burns over the course of greater than six hours, focusing on a round geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles (almost 36,000 kilometers) over the equator.

The mission was the 429th flight of a Proton rocket since 1965. Russia plans to part out the Proton rocket within the subsequent few years.

The Breeze M higher stage launched the satellite tv for pc, which Russia’s authorities calls Luch 5X, into the correct orbit, in accordance to Roscosmos, Russia’s house company. Roscosmos stated the Luch 5X satellite tv for pc “will assist develop superior relay and communication applied sciences.”

Traditionally, Russia’s Luch household of satellites have carried out civilian communications relay missions in assist of the Worldwide Area Station and the sooner Mir house station. The launch Sunday was shrouded in secrecy, with no stay video or particulars concerning the payload.

Impartial analysts imagine the Luch 5X identify is a canopy for a categorized Russian satellite tv for pc that’s a part of the Olymp-Ok program managed by the Federal Safety Service, or FSB, intelligence company or the Russian navy. The primary Olymp-Ok satellite tv for pc launched on a Proton rocket in 2014 underneath an analogous veil of secrecy.

After that satellite tv for pc arrived in orbit, the U.S. navy tracked it approaching a number of satellites in a collection of maneuvers that took the Olymp-Ok spacecraft across the geostationary belt, slightly than staying in a set place like most geostationary satellites. A 2020 report from Washington-based Middle for Strategic & Worldwide Research, or CSIS, stated the primary Olymp-Ok satellite tv for pc was partaking in “suspicious” rendezvous and proximity operations exercise in geostationary orbit.

“The satellite tv for pc — often known as Olymp-Ok or Luch — has attracted consideration for shifting its place inside the geosynchronous belt on a comparatively frequent foundation, occupying no less than 19 completely different positions since its launch in September 2014,” the CSIS assume tank stated in 2020.

Then Olymp-Ok satellite tv for pc first positioned itself between two satellites operated by the U.S. firm Intelsat, then approached one other Intelsat satellite tv for pc in 2015. The French protection ministry accused Russia in 2018 of committing “an act of espionage” after the Olymp-Ok satellite tv for pc approached a French-Italian navy communications satellite tv for pc in 2017, in accordance with the CSIS report.

“Approaching satellites in GEO on this method might permit for shut inspection or doubtlessly interception of their communication hyperlinks,” CSIS stated.

As of 2020, the Olymp-Ok satellite tv for pc had approached 11 Intelsat satellites, 4 Eutelsat satellites, two SES satellites, and no less than 9 different satellites operated by Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, the UK, and the European Area Company, CSIS stated. The assume tank stated the Olymp-Ok satellite tv for pc gave the impression to be “maneuvering round then GEO belt in a scientific, deliberate method,” however there have been no public stories of any injury to different satellites.

Satellite tv for pc watchers are prepared to observe the actions of the satellite tv for pc launched Sunday, believed to be the second Olymp-Ok satellite tv for pc, to see if it performs comparable maneuvers to carefully method different spacecraft in geostationary orbit.

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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