Orion ? [NRO]
The Orion 3 - 9 satellites, which are generally known as 'Advanced Orion' or 'Mentor', are geostationary signals intelligence satellites, which replaced the Magnum / Orion series. Their purpose is to intercept missile telemetry from Russia and China and the COMINT capability of the Mercury satellites was merged into this series. These satellites are launched under the designation Program 7600.
Although this satellite series was originally designed for FISINT (Foreign Instrumentation Signals Intelligence), they are now primarily used as COMINT collectors, with about 85% of their work is againt COMINT targets. Some were collocated with Thuraya mobile communications satellites.
These satellites feature a large dish antenna for signal reception, which has reportedly a diameter of ~100 m. The main body has the shape of an octagonal prism, carrying an large array of different antennas, among them a smaller deployable dish. The combination of fixed and steerable feeds allows simultaneous collection againt multiple signal types (COMINT, ELINT, MASINT, etc.) located across a broad geographic aera. The satellites of this series are injected directly into the final orbit by the launch vehicle's upper stage, so they do not feature an apogee propulsion system. These satellites have a significantly larger mass as the first two Magnum / Orion satellites.
Additionally to the SIGINT task, these satellites also included a communications cross-link system in space and had some limited data relay capability.
The NROL 15 launch is suspected to be the eighth satellite in the Orion series, but due to the higher power launch vehicle, a modified version is also possible. It is also possible, that the satellites called here Orion 8 and following might in fact be improved versions funded under the SHARP (SIGINT High Altitude Replenishment Program).
|Type / Application:||SIGINT, ELINT, COMINT|
|Operator:||NRO, CIA, NSA|
|Contractors:||TRW → Northrop Grumman Space Technology|
|Configuration:||Large Dish Antenna, 3-Axis-Stabilization|
|Power:||Solar arrays, batteries|
|Orion 3 (USA 110)||1995-022A||14.05.1995||CC LC-40||Titan-4(01)A Centaur-T|
|Orion 4 (USA 139, NROL 6)||1998-029A||09.05.1998||CC LC-40||Titan-4(01)B Centaur-T|
|Orion 5 (USA 171, NROL 19)||2003-041A||09.09.2003||CC LC-40||Titan-4(01)B Centaur-T|
|Orion 6 (USA 202, NROL 26)||2009-001A||18.01.2009||CC SLC-37B||Delta-4H|
|Orion 7 (USA 223, NROL 32)||2010-063A||21.11.2010||CC SLC-37B||Delta-4H|
|Orion 8 ? (USA 237, NROL 15)||2012-034A||29.06.2012||CC SLC-37B||Delta-4H (upg.)|
|Orion 9 ? (USA 268, NROL 37)||2016-036A||11.06.2016||CC SLC-37B||Delta-4H (upg.)|
|Orion 10 ? (NROL 44)||-||2019||CC SLC-37B||Delta-4H (upg.)|
|Orion 11 ? (NROL 68)||-||2020||CC SLC-37B||Delta-4H (upg.)|