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Orion 1, 2 (Magnum 1, 2)

The Magnum / Orion satellites are geostationary signals intelligence satellites, which replaced the Rhyolite / Aquacade series. Their purpose was to intercept missile telemetry from the Soviet Union and China. Originally developed under the codename Magnum, their name was replaced by Orion (RIO) before the first launch.

The Magnum / Orion satellites were, like their predecessors, built by TRW. They were considerably larger with an launch mass of 2200 to 2700 kg. The main intercept antenna reflector dish has reportedly a size of about 100 m to allow to monitor lower power transmissions and provide a better accuracy for transmitter position determination. They were mainly used to intercept a wide range of signals, including telemetry from Soviet missile tests and were reportedly also capable intercepting military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union. According to other reports, they also received data from emplaced sensors in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.

Additionally to the SIGINT task, these two satellites also included a communications cross-link system in space and had some limited data relay capability.

The satellites of this series were built for direct insertion into geosynchronous orbit by the IUS upper stage so no internal apogee propulsion system was needed. Small hydrazine liquid propellant thrusters were used to refine the final positioning.

Orion 1 (USA 8) was launched on 24 January 1985 on Shuttle flight Discovery STS-51-C with IUS upper stage. For monitoring the western portion of the Soviet Union it was likely positioned around 70 East for five years. Orion-1 remained functioning for more than another two decades, at least to November 2009 and probably until sometime in 2013.

Orion 2 (USA 48) was launched on 23 November 1989 on Shuttle flight Discovery STS-33R with IUS upper stage. Reportedly it replaced Orion 1 at the 70 position. Orion-2 remained functioning at least to November 2009 and probably until sometime in 2013.

They were succeeded by the 'Advanced Orion' series.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: SIGINT, ELINT, COMINT
Operator: NRO, CIA
Contractors: TRW
Equipment: ?
Configuration: ~ 100 m Dish Antenna, 3-Axis-Stabilization
Propulsion: ?
Power: Solar arrays, batteries
Lifetime: +20 years (reached)
Mass: ~2200 to 2700 kg
Orbit: GEO
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Orion 1 (RIO 1, Mission 7605, USA 8) (ex Magnum 1) 1985-010B 24.01.1985 CCK LC-39A Shuttle [IUS] with Discovery F3 (STS 51-C)
Orion 2 (RIO 2, Mission 7606, USA 48) (ex Magnum 2) 1989-090B 23.11.1989 CCK LC-39B Shuttle [IUS] with Discovery F9 (STS 33R)


Further high orbit SIGINT missions:

Geostationary orbit COMINT (Canyon-Chalet-Vortex-Mercury series) Geostationary orbit SIGINT (Rhyolite-Aquacade-Magnum-Orion series) High elliptical orbit SIGINT (Jumpseat-Trumpet series) Other high orbit SIGINT