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A mysterious Russian satellite has spent the past few weeks getting altogether much too close to some well-known international satellite operators.
The Russian satellite, called ‘Luch’, launched back in September 2014 and in April popped up within a half-degree of Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 901 satellites orbiting 36,000 kilometres above the Equator.
The US Dept. of Defense on October 15th said that the satellite had moved, this time alongside Intelsat 905 at 24.5 degrees West, and right up against the Intelsat satellite which legitimately occupies the 24.5 slot. One-tenth of a degree of orbital arc is considered extremely dangerous and is within 5 kilometres of the Intelsat craft.
The danger is that Intelsat would have to carry out conventional station keeping operations and would not know the intentions of the Russian-owned satellite.
Intelsat, as well as providing DTH and point-to-point TV transmissions, also frequently carries military and governmental data and communications traffic.
A meeting in Washington DC on November 8th of the Reagan National Defense Forum saw US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter strongly condemn the Russian satellite’s movements. He worried that Russia has become intent on “flouting” the principles that underlie the “principled international order” that has “served the United States, our many friends and allies — and yes – if you think about it, Russia, China, and many other countries, well for decades.”
“At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities,” and its “nuclear saber-rattling” suggests it is not committed to strategic stability. “We do not seek a cold, much less a hot war with Russia,” but the United States will defend its own interests as well as “our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords us all.”