Suspect Behavior in GEO

The Russian satellite, Luch 2, has been observed maneuvering in geostationary orbit (GEO). This is uncommon behavior for a GEO satellite because they typically maintain a fixed position. Slingshot Aerospace, a space situational awareness company, reported that Luch 2 began moving on September 26. On October 2, it slowed near a cluster of unidentified satellites. These movements in GEO are unusual and have raised red flags for US authorities and satellite operators.1

This situation is reminiscent of Luch, the predecessor to Luch 2, which, in 2015, maneuvered between two Intelsat GEO satellites, causing concern within the US government about Russia’s intentions. After that incident, the US closely monitored Luch’s movements, noting it occupied at least 19 different positions in orbit between 2014 and 2020. Suspicion grew about Luch’s involvement in counterspace activities after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2021 when it started lingering for longer periods near Intelsat satellites. 1

It is unknown why Russia has maneuvered Luch 2 but it can be assumed that it is in support of some sort of espionage. It is likely sniffing communication links. Space system communications are challenging to secure and are actively being intercepted for malign reasons.