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Russian SBAS Satellite on the Move

June 14, 2012  - By
Image: GPS World

News courtesy of CANSPACE Listserv.

According to tracking information supplied by NORAD/JSpOC, spacecraft controllers have adjusted the orbit of the Luch-5A relay satellite. Luch-5A is the first of a set of three geostationary satellites being launched to reactivate Roscosmos's Luch Multifunctional Space Relay System. The system will be used to relay communications and telemetry between low-Earth-orbiting spacecraft, such as the Russian segment of International Space Station, and Russian ground facilities.

The satellites also carry transponders for the System for Differential Correction and Monitoring (SDCM), Russia's satellite-based augmentation system. The transponders will broadcast GNSS corrections on the standard GPS L1 frequency using C/A PRN codes assigned by DoD's Global Positioning Systems Directorate. Luch-5A was assigned PRN 125; Luch-5B, PRN 140; and Luch-5V (previously called Luch-4), PRN 141.

Luch-5A was launched on 11 December 2011 and was placed in a temporary geostationary orbit with a sub-satellite longitude of about 58.5 degrees east. The previously announced operational location for the satellite is 16 degrees west longitude.

The satellite's orbit was lowered on or about 30 May and the satellite is now drifting slowly eastwards at a rate of about 1.6 degrees per day. At this rate, the satellite will reach 16 degrees west by November. Today, the sub-satellite longitude is about 81.5 degrees east.

If the intended destination is actually 16 degrees west, it is not known why the spacecraft operators didn't arrange for the satellite to move westwards so that it would reach the destination in a shorter time. One thought is that to achieve such a move, the satellite's orbit would need to be raised and that could have put it into the graveyard region where defunct geostationary satellites are put to rest and where the chance of a collision might be higher. On the other hand, perhaps the satellite is being moved to another temporary location.

Luch-5B is scheduled for launch on August 30, 2012.

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