Author Topic: Proton-M/Briz-M - Luch-5X [Olimp-K] - Baikonur - 12 March 2023 - 23:12:59.981UT  (Read 32637 times)

Offline Targeteer

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Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline B. Hendrickx

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PS: "Olimp-K 2" should be replaced by "Luch-5X" in the thread title. This is the satellite's official name. 

The correct transliteration is Luch 5Kh. :-)

https://russianalphabeteasy.com/russian-letters/h/

Looks like it is Luch-5X (with Latin X) after all. First, this is how the satellite was registered with the United Nations in various languages (including English). Second, in a TsENKI webcast of the launch the commentator pronounces the "X" as the Latin letter "X" (sounding as "iks" when pronounced by a Russian) and not as the Cyrillic "X" (which is a velar fricative that has no equivalent in standard English, although it is sometimes heard in Scottish English in Gaelic words such as loch (lake)).

By the way, the TsENKI webcast of the launch, which begins just one minute before T-0, is on YouTube. I'm not sure if it was shown live (and if it was, nobody seems to have noticed it). The launch took place in thick fog and the rocket was barely visible. That means the only picture that Roscosmos released with its launch announcement was most likely a file photo. 





 

Offline Josh_from_Canada

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Could someone who speaks Russian share the serial number(s) of the Briz-M and/or Proton-M that was stated in the video
Launches Seen: Atlas V OA-7, Falcon 9 Starlink 6-4, Falcon 9 CRS-28,

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Could someone who speaks Russian share the serial number(s) of the Briz-M and/or Proton-M that was stated in the video

The serial numbers are not given in the video.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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According to data from Celestrak, Luch-5X has left its parking spot at 8.9°E, where it spent more than four months in the immediate vicinity of Eutelsat-KA-SAT 9A and Eutelsat 9B. It has begun drifting westward and is most likely headed for its next target. It is currently at 7.5°E.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Luch-5X has come to a stop at 3.2°E, right next to Eutelsat 3B (3.1°E). This looks like it will become its next eavesdropping target. Eutelsat 3B was launched in 2014. Here's some background on the satellite from Eutelsat's website:

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EUTELSAT 3B is a tri-band satellite for markets in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South America. Located at 3° East, the satellite is optimised for customers operating broadband, data, telecom and video services in a vast footprint spanning from Brazil to Central Asia. With up to 51 transponders, EUTELSAT 3B offers satellite resources in Ku, C and Ka-band connected to fixed and steerable antennas for maximum flexibility. This enables users to select the most relevant frequency band for different types of service. Ku and C-band capacity is optimised for broadcast and data markets. High throughput beams in the Ka-band are ideal for innovative applications in bandwidth demanding markets.

This is the third Eutelsat visited by Luch-5X. Eutelsat satellites were also a popular target for Luch/Olimp, with six visits between 2016 and 2021. Intelsat tops the list with 12 visits.

Offline owais.usmani

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Why eavesdrop on all these commercial satellites instead of military ones?

Offline Alter Sachse

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Why eavesdrop on all these commercial satellites instead of military ones?
I think the communication of the military satellites will be encrypted.
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Offline owais.usmani

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Why eavesdrop on all these commercial satellites instead of military ones?
I think the communication of the military satellites will be encrypted.
So what do they get from eavesdroping on these commercial satellites? Super Bowl and Lady Gaga concerts maybe? or they looking for something else from them?

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Why eavesdrop on all these commercial satellites instead of military ones?

A good question that has not been satisfactorily addressed in the articles written on these eavesdropping satellites.
Kratos, a US company that has been keeping a close eye on Olimp's maneuvers, offers this explanation:

https://www.kratosdefense.com/constellations/articles/espionage-in-orbit-satellite-or-spy

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Why is Russia interested in spying on satellites run by commercial companies? Because of their customers. U.S. and European militaries spend billions to lease bandwidth from commercial satellite operators like Intelsat and Eutelsat. These links may carry a variety of mission traffic, from unmanned aircraft video feeds to mobile ground unit communications.

America's PAN and CLEO satellites (part of the NEMESIS program), which perform similar missions, also seem to target commercial satellites. It's been speculated that one of their tasks was to pick up telephone communications to geolocate targets for drone strikes.

But there's probably also industrial/economic espionage through interception of telephone and data traffic. As became known from the Snowden leaks, the US uses its ORION SIGINT satellites for collecting economic information. Two of them were parked close to the Thuraya-2, a mobile communications satellite. In an article on the US eavesdropping satellites, Marco Langbroek wrote this:
https://www.thespacereview.com/article/3095/1

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The leaked documents contain a few more interesting facts. While we have mostly talked about a role for Space-based SIGINT in the context of the drone war, counter-insurgency, and military conflict, the second of the leaked documents mentions yet another role: collecting economic information.

While economic information can be of legitimate military interest, it also has a potential strategic commercial value. This feeds my privately-held concern about whether the close eavesdropping on certain commercial telecommunications satellites also collects useful information from the viewpoint of industrial espionage. For non-US (e.g. European) companies and industries that might be the target of such espionage, this is something to consider. When you use your Thuraya satellite telephone or a satellite-based Internet connection to discuss your latest prospective bids for, say, building a harbor in Saudi Arabia, oil prospection in Jordan, or securing a large order of airliners from Qatar with the main office back home, the US government might be listening in and forwarding the info to interested US rival companies, to the latter’s benefit.



Offline russianhalo117

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Why eavesdrop on all these commercial satellites instead of military ones?
I think the communication of the military satellites will be encrypted.
So what do they get from eavesdroping on these commercial satellites? Super Bowl and Lady Gaga concerts maybe? or they looking for something else from them?
Hosted payloads and lower level defense communications via commercial assets.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4696/1

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Olimp and Yenisei-2: Russia’s secretive eavesdropping satellites (part 1)
by Bart Hendrickx

On March 12 this year, a Proton-M rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, punching its way through a dense layer of fog that only thickened the veil of secrecy surrounding the launch. Although Baikonur is now a civilian launch site that is no longer used for military launches, Roscosmos did not stream the launch live and afterwards reported only that a satellite named Luch-5X had been placed into orbit to test “advanced relay and communication technology.” Its mission is reminiscent of that of another Russian satellite launched in September 2014. Announced simply as Luch, it has spent the past nine years traversing the geostationary belt and regularly parking itself close to commercial communications satellites with the apparent goal of eavesdropping on them.

This is an attempt to collect all the information on these satellites that can be extracted from open sources. Part 1 focuses on their design features, the maneuvers they have made in geostationary orbit and the satellites they have visited. Evidence is given that Luch-5X is a significantly modified version of Luch that is referred to in official documentation as Yenisei-2. As has been known for a long time, Luch is a cover name for Olimp. 

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Part 2 of the article on the eavesdropping satellites is now up on The Space Review:

https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4699/1

Evidence is presented that the organization behind the eavesdropping satellites is Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), a claim initially made by the Kommersant newspaper in 2014. It looks like the project was started early this century under FAPSI (the equivalent of the US National Security Agency) and was then transferred to the FSB’s SIGINT division (the so-called “16th Center”) after FAPSI was disbanded in 2003.

A key role in the project was apparently assigned to NII Radio, which has close ties with the 16th Center and the FSB Academy. The company has produced a wide range of ground-based satellite dish antennas for the 16th Center, at least some of which (named Rebus) may be intended to communicate with the eavesdropping satellites. Some of these antennas are situated at an FSB site near Chekhov some 70 km south of Moscow (see attachment 1).

NII Radio has also provided at least part of the payload for the satellites. This appears to include multibeam antennas that are described in some joint NII Radio/FSB publications and are also seen in what may well be the only publicly available drawing of Olimp (see attachment 2). Also on board are L-band payloads that could be designed to convert intercepted signals to lower frequencies before they are downlinked to the ground. Another possibility is that they are used for mobile communications in the interests of the government and/or Russian intelligence agencies.

Also discussed are a handful of ISS Reshetnev patents that may shed light on plans for future eavesdropping satellites.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Luch-5X left its position at 3.2°E on December 3/4 and has now parked at 2.6°E, right next to Eutelsat Konnect VHTS, which is at 2.7°E. This satellite was launched by an Ariane 5 rocket in September last year and was declared operational just a couple of weeks ago. Like the two other satellites visited so far by Luch-5X (ViaSat’s KA-SAT and Eutelsat 3B), it has high-throughput capability in the Ka-band.  This is a description of the satellite from the website of Thales Alenia, its manufacturer:

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EUTELSAT KONNECT VHTS satellite, a very high throughput satellite built for the international operator Eutelsat, will deliver high-speed broadband and mobile connectivity across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. With a Ka-band capacity of 500 Gbps, it is the largest and most capacitive geostationary communications satellite ever built in Europe. The satellite embarks the most powerful on-board digital processor ever put in orbit, offering capacity allocation flexibility and an optimum spectrum use.

EUTELSAT KONNECT VHTS is the satellite of all the superlatives: it is about 9 meters high, as tall as a three-story building, with a wingspan of more than 45 meters and a launch mass of 6,4 metric tons. With a design life exceeding 15 years, the satellite is built on a full electric Spacebus NEO platform from Thales Alenia Space and developed with the support of French and European space agency’s CNES and ESA.

This new-generation satellite, harbouring a capacity seven times that of its brother satellite EUTELSAT KONNECT launched in 2020, will help bridge the digital divide by providing very high-speed Internet access across Europe, especially in isolated regions with poor coverage. The HTS services, available on the ground, in the air and at sea, anywhere and anytime in the covered area, will be comparable to a fiber-optic network’s performance and services.

The fact that Luch-5X focuses on high-throughput Ka-band satellites is probably no coincidence. As I explained in my recent articles for “The Space Review”, the satellite appears to be equipped with a system that intercepts Ka-band signals and then converts them to lower frequency L-band signals before relaying them to the ground.  Luch-5X most likely is a cover name for Yenisei-2.


Offline jcm

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Bart, at one point it was claimed that the Orlets-class Kosmos-2372 LEO spy sat had the name Yenisey.  Is this no longer thought to be correct?
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Offline B. Hendrickx

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Bart, at one point it was claimed that the Orlets-class Kosmos-2372 LEO spy sat had the name Yenisey.  Is this no longer thought to be correct?

Yenisei is indeed an alternative name seen for the Orlets-2 (17F113) reconnaissance satellites, two of which were launched by the Zenit-2 rocket in 1994 and 2000 (Kosmos-2290 and 2372).

The Russians have a tradition of recycling names in their space program. For instance, Yenisei-2 was the name of the imaging system of the Luna-3 probe that took the first pictures of the far side of the Moon in 1959. The name Yenisei has also been used for a future heavy-lift launch vehicle. And ISS Reshetnev has used it for what appear to be two totally unrelated satellites, Yenisei-A1 (an experimental mobile communications satellite that has probably been canceled) and Yenisei-2 (the successor of Olimp). Hard to say whether this is just a lack of imagination or a deliberate attempt to confuse outsiders. The choice of these names may also have something to do with the fact that the Yenisei river flows through Krasnoyarsk, the Siberian town not far from ISS Reshetnev's headquarters in Zheleznogorsk. 

 

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