Friday, 25 February 2011

Libya jamming Thuraya 2

In an effort to prevent dissemination of information, Khadaffi's forces in Libya are now jamming several communication satellites that serve Libya, including Thuraya, Reuters reports. (see also a press release by the Thuraya company here)

The Thuraya satellite being jammed is Thuraya 2 (2003-026A), a geosynchronous satellite located at 44 degrees East, over East Africa:

click map to enlarge

I have imaged this satellite several times, as it's position is close to that of USA 202/Mentor 4 (09-001A). Thuraya 2 is the upper of the two objects in below image, which I shot at 8 December 2010 using the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 2.8/180mm:

click image to enlarge

I wonder whether the jamming is not only aimed at Thuraya 2, but perhaps also at the nearby Mentor. The latter is a SIGINT satellite, and jamming it would hamper US intelligence gathering on what is currently going on within Libya (and northern Africa and the Arabian peninsula in general). It is not clear to me however whether the jamming is "local" on the Thuraya downlink over Libya, or actively aimed (in an "uplink" sense) at the satellite.

Libya was accused of jamming Thuraya 2 earlier in 2006 (see here and here).

Sunday, 13 February 2011

FIA Radar 1 and a flaring Topex near the Andromeda Galaxy

In the evening of Februari 8 I observed the KH-12 Keyhole USA 129 (96-072A) which is becoming visible for my location again, and the FIA Radar 1 (10-046A).

The latter moved close to M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. In the same image is another satellite, Topex (92-052A), which is flaring (it is present in a second image too). All together, this yielded this nice image:

(click image to enlarge)

Topex was part of a joint US/French oceanographic experiment. Launched in 1992, it functioned up to 2005. With the loss of attitude control since it ceased functioning, it has started to tumble, producing flashes.

I also observed the FIA Radar 1 on February 3rd, together with the USA 144 decoy (99-028C)

Yesterday, on Februari 12th after a day full of drizzle, it unexpectedly cleared around midnight, allowing me to photograph the geostationary SIGINT satellite Mentor 2 (98-029A) which at that time was just south of Procyon:

(click image to enlarge)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

NROL-27 patches

NROL-27 is slated to be launched on March 11 on a Delta IV rocket. Two patches have appeared for this classified launch so far, both featuring a Gryphon:

(click images to enlarge)

Some independant analysts believe NROL-27 will be a geostationary SDS satellite. The patches, especially the second one, tend to support that suspicion.

The Latin "Nos Suo Caelum" in the second patch means "We Connect the Heavens". This is exactly what SDS satellites do: they provide an uplink and downlink platform between other (reconnaissance) satellites and their operating centers. The red Dragon in the second patch, might indicate this new SDS will notably serve a role for SIGINT satellites (as historically, dragons in patches signify SIGINT satellites).

The Gryphon, part lion, part eagle, features in both patches. Gryphons guard treasure and possessions, and are symbols of the divine and divine power; strength, military courage and leadership. The "Custos Divini" in the first patch means "Guardian of the Divine".