To the annoyance of Intelsat and to the concern of the US Department of Defense, the Luch (Olymp) spacecraft has been involved in a series of “close” parking incidents with spacecraft of the Intelsat international operator. Since its launch and early orbital positioning late last year, the spacecraft was moved between April and June this year to a position directly between the Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 901 satellites at 18 degrees West – sometimes moving as close as 10km from the spacecraft.
In late September, the spacecraft moved off station again to position itself at 24.4 degrees West right next to Intelsat 905 (at 24.5W) in geostationary Earth orbit – again to the annoyance of Intelsat who were concerned about the risk collision. Meantime, the US Department of Defence was concerned that the spacecraft was either engaged in electronic intelligence gathering of signals to the satellites or that it was part of a practice attempt at a ‘killersat’ satellite interception in the geostationary arc.
The antagonistic behaviour by the Russian state-owned spacecraft was later explained away by unofficial Russian sources of RussianSpaceWeb.com as being simply coincidental as the Olymp satellite was providing communications for the Russian Navy and was simply moved around as part of this.