Russia moved one of its satellites uncomfortably close to a French one, possibly to spy on it: report

Russia moved one of its satellites uncomfortably close to a French one, possibly to spy on it: report
An artist's illustration of a geostationary satellite.NOAA
  • Russia moved close to a satellite which some think is Eutelsat's 3B craft, analysts said.
  • It follows a pattern of Russian behavior in space that has prompted security concerns.

Russia moved one of its satellites uncomfortably close to France's Eutelsat 3B communications satellite, possibly to spy on it, according to reports.

On October 5, a Russian spacecraft, known as Luch-5X or Olymp-K-2, slowed down after moving within 60 kilometers (37 miles) of another satellite in geostationary orbit, according to US intel firm Slingshot Aerospace.

"We predicted where we thought it would stop, and lo and behold, it did actually stop there," Audrey Schaffer, Slingshot Aerospace's vice president for strategy and policy, told Breaking Defense.

Slingshot Aerospace did not specify the name of the satellite. However, TJ Kouri, the head of space object visualization firm, believes Luch-5X/Olymp-K-2 is stationed near the Eutelsat 3B satellite, a commercial communications satellite built by Airbus in France, according to a Facebook.

Eutelsat's 3B satellite provides broadband, data, telecom, and video services across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South America.


Luch-5-X/Olymp-K-2 also recently lingered near Eutelsat's 9B satellite, which provides satellite coverage across Europe for TV channels, per Kouri.

"What you're seeing is behavior that could be considered unfriendly," said Schaffer, who has previously served as the director of space policy at the National Security Council, per Breaking Defense.

Luch-5-X/Olymp K-2 isn't close enough to crash into the unnamed commercial satellite. The distance at which it is parked wouldn't trigger the collision detectors aboard the non-Russian satellite, Breaking Defense reported.

However, the main concern is that it might be spying on sensitive intelligence information.

"Just because it's not close enough to be a safety threat doesn't mean it doesn't potentially present a security threat," Schaffer told


"If you are a commercial communication satellite company you may not want a Russian spy satellite listening in on your communications," she added, per

The behavior is not altogether unexpected. Analysts said it is reminiscent of another Luch Olymp Russian spacecraft that caused a stir in 2015 after it approached commercial intelligence satellites from US firm Intelsat.

This "well-known GEO [geostationary Earth Orbit] inspector satellite" also caused concern as it loitered near Intelsat satellites at the beginning of the Ukraine war, per a space security report from US think tank the Council for Strategic International Studies.

Though Luch Olymp K-2's payload is poorly understood, "it likely packs more advanced signals intelligence capabilities and operational techniques," Michael Clont, director of Space Domain Initiatives at Kratos, told