Data Repository Space Security Unusual Behavior in GEO: Olymp-K Last UpdatedApril 4, 2019 By Thomas G. Roberts ShareView in the Data Repository This data repository accompanies Space Threat Assessment 2019, a featured report from the CSIS Aerospace Security Project. This data repository visualizes the orbital position of Russian satellite Olymp-K—also referred to as “Luch” by the Russian government—from July 2017 to November 2018, relative to other satellites currently in the GEO belt. Unlike most objects in the geostationary belt, Olymp-K made a series of orbital maneuvers after it reached its destination orbital regime, varying its position relative to the Earth and neighboring satellites and spurring several accusations of Russian misbehavior by other satellite operators. From July 2017 to November 2018—the time period depicted in the interactive diagram—Olymp-K occupied nine distinct orbital positions. In 2015, an essay published in The Space Review documented early movements of the Russian satellite, noting its close proximity to two Intelsat satellites.1 Later, Space News reported an Intelsat executive’s response to the close approach, which suggested that Olymp-K‘s behavior was “not normal” and “concerned” Intelsat.2 Years later, the French Minister of the Armed Services made similar statements about the Russian satellite’s behavior as it related to the French-Italian satellite Athena-Fidus.3 A table highlighting a portion of Olymp-K’s movements—including the actions that likely spurred the accusations by Intelsat and the French government—appears below. Show Timeline of Orbital Maneuvers Time Period Action September 27, 2014 Launch of Olymp-K September 27 – October 15, 2014 Initial GEO drift, reaching a maximum longitude 66.5°E before becoming stable at 54.0°E October 15, 2014 – February 1, 2015 Maintained orbit February 1 – February 21, 2015 Relocated to 96.4°E February 21 – April 4, 2015 Maintained orbit April 4 – June 22, 2015 Westward drift; relocated to 17.9°W June 22 – September 24, 2015 Maintained orbit between Intelsat 7 (17.8°W) and Intelsat 901 (18.0°W) September 24 – October 1, 2015 Relocated to 23.6°W October 1 – December 8, 2015 Maintained orbit near Intelsat 905 (23.5°W) December 8, 2015 – January 5, 2016 Relocated to 0.9°W January 5 – August 29, 2016 Maintained orbit August 29 – September 9, 2016 Relocated to 9.9°E September 9, 2016 – July 26, 2017 Maintained orbit July 26 – August 15, 2017 Relocated to 32.7°E August 15 – October 16, 2017 Maintained orbit October 16 – October 20, 2017 Relocated to 38.1°E October 20, 2017 – January 11, 2018 Maintained orbit near Athena-Fidus (37.8°E) January 11 – January 14, 2018 Relocated to 41.9°E January 14 – February 5, 2018 Maintained orbit February 5, 2018 Adjusted position to 42.6°E February 6 – April 18, 2018 Maintained orbit April 18 – April 24, 2018 Relocated to 47.5°E April 24 – June 1, 2018 Maintained orbit June 1 – June 7, 2018 Adjusted position to 48.1°E June 7 – June 27, 2018 Maintained orbit June 27 – July 1, 2018 Relocated to 49.9°E July 1 – October 20, 2018 Maintained orbit October 20 – October 29, 2018 Relocated to 57.0°E To learn more about the potential consequences of such behavior on orbit, including a broader look at Russia’s counterspace weapon activities, read the Russia space threat assessment in Space Threat Assessment 2019. Methodology This data visualization relies on two principal data sources: the Space-Track.org catalog of all space objects, provided by the U.S. Strategic Command’s Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC),4 and a database of geostationary satellites currently on orbit, provided by NY2O.com.5 The orbital position data for Olymp-K from July 2017 to November 2018—shown in orange in the interactive diagram—was derived from the two-line element (TLE) data for the satellite, available at Space-Track.org. The TLE for a space object is a measurement of the object’s approximate orbit (its inclination, right ascension of the ascending node, eccentricity, and argument of perigee) and its position on that orbit (its mean anomaly). This data was transformed into a time-dependent longitude position using PyEphem, a publicly-available Python package for high-precision astronomy computations.6 Although Space-Track.org provides more than one TLE for Olymp-K per day during the time period depicted, this data repository shows just one longitudinal position per day, for clarity. The orbital position data for the other GEO satellites—shown in gray in the interactive diagram—use data from NY2O.com, as it appeared on March 24, 2019. This interactive data repository is a product of the Andreas C. Dracopoulos iDeas Lab, the in-house digital, multimedia, and design agency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Special thanks to Jacque Schrag for her work developing this tool.