Monday, November 23, 2009

Russians Launch New Military Elint Into Orbit

I have now confirmed through two independent sources and orbital analysis that this was a Lotus-S elint satellite launch. One source comes from the well respected Russian Strategic nuclear forces blog:

Russia launched a military spy satellite into space Friday on a Soyuz-U rocket from the country's Plesetsk Cosmodrome (launch complex 16, launch pad no. 2). The secret payload lifted off at 1044 GMT (5:44 a.m. EST). The three-stage Soyuz-U rocket delivered the Kosmos 2455 spacecraft (2009-063A) into an elliptical orbit 905 x 199 km, inclination 67.17°. Catalog numbers associated with the launch are 36095 and 36096.

There are several post on various newsgroups indicating this is an elint satellite. The particulars on this satellite follow.

Payload: Lotos-S Electronic Reconnaissance satellite (Cosmos 2455)
Spacecraft: Lotos-S ("Lotos" means Lotus), possible production item's code 14F145.

Manufacturer: Samara Space Centre; ELINT Payload Manufacturer: PLC Arsenal Machine Building Plant, St. Petersburg

Lotos-S satellites are one component of the the next generation ELINT satellite system Liana. Liana replaces both the Tselina-2 with Lotos-S satellites and the naval US-PM with Pion-NKS spacecrafts. It's built upon Yantar remote sensing satellites' bus. The coming launch is going to be first in the service career of this model.

From the Russian Strategic Nuclea Forces:

"This is the first launch of a satellite of the Lotos-S type. It has been reported that these satellites, with their not yet flown counterparts known as Pion, will work as part of the Liana electronic reconnaissance system. This system is being designed to replace the Tselina electronic intelligence and US-PU/Legenda naval reconnaissance systems. Cosmos-2421, which operated from June 2006 to February 2008, apparently was the last US-PU satellite. The launch of Cosmos-2428 in June 2007 was reported to be the last launch of a Tselina-2 satellite. (At the same time, according to the Kommersant report quoted above, Ukraine will deliver to Russia four 11F644 Tselina spacecraft by January 2012, indicating that launches might continue.)

"The launch was initially planned for July 28, 2009, but was cancelled because of problems with one of the satellite components. The spacecraft was returned to the manufacturer, Arsenal Machine Building Plant in St-Petersburg, which worked on the spacecraft together with the TsSKB-Progress Design Bureau in Samara."

Early initial reports from RIA Novosti that this was another Oko EW mission were not correct.

The Cosmos 2441 (launched on July 26, 2008) is believed to be the first in a new series of spy satellites (Persona), featuring updated imaging technology and an extended lifetime of up to seven years.

The Soyuz-U rocket is designed to orbit Soyuz and Progress manned and cargo spacecraft, as well as special-purpose satellites such as Cosmos, Resurs-F, Foton and Bion.

The rocket has payload of up to 6,950 kilograms. A Soyuz-U was last launched from Plesetsk on April 29, 2009.

Russia reportedly operates a network of 60-70 reconnaissance satellites and has carried out 16 space launches since the beginning of 2009.

Based on the information in my satellite database, I do not believe the later mission tieup since that Oko EW constellation operates around a 65° inclination in a much high Molniya style orbit. For now I will carry this satellite as a Lotus-S elint bird.