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Orion 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Orion 6 (redacted) [NRO]

The Orion 5 - 9 (RIO 5 - 9) satellites, which are generally known as 'Advanced Orion' or 'Mentor', are geostationary signals intelligence satellites, which replaced the earlier Mission 7600 Magnum / Orion series. Their purpose is to intercept missile telemetry from Russia and China and the COMINT capability of the Mission 7500 Mercury satellites was merged into this series. These satellites are launched under the designation Program 8300.

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.

The 8300 satellites feature increased bandwith channels and downlink capacity for wideband collection, espacially TECHELINT from modern modulation emitters. Also they add an dedicated second dish antenna for ELINT, test range surveillanceand signal search. The satellites in conjunction with the Mission 8200 satellites provide high-accuracy OPELINT geolocation capability through cross-site and cross-system operations. By merging the tasks of Missions 7500 and 7600, a common high sensitivity spacecraft design can be used, which has the capability to relocate as required providing flexile crisis and contingency support.

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

The baseline Mission 8300 constellation consists of at least three satellites, operated from Pine Gap, Australia, and from Menwith Hill, UK. If older satellites are available, they operate in a larger constellation.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: SIGINT, ELINT, COMINT
Operator: NRO, CIA, NSA
Contractors: TRW → Northrop Grumman Space Technology
Equipment: ?
Configuration: Large Dish Antenna,, smaller TELINT dish antenna, 3-Axis-Stabilization
Propulsion: ?
Power: Solar arrays, batteries
Lifetime: ?
Orbit: GEO
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Orion 5 (RIO 5, Mission 8301, USA 171, NROL 19) 2003-041A 09.09.2003 CC LC-40 Titan-4(01)B Centaur-T
Orion 6 (RIO 6, Mission 8302 ?, USA 202, NROL 26) 2009-001A 18.01.2009 CC SLC-37B Delta-4H
Orion 7 (RIO 7, Mission 8303, USA 223, NROL 32) 2010-063A 21.11.2010 CC SLC-37B Delta-4H
Orion 8 ? (RIO 8, Mission 8304 ?, USA 237, NROL 15) 2012-034A 29.06.2012 CC SLC-37B Delta-4H (upg.)
Orion 9 ? (RIO 9, Mission 8306 ?, 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.)
Orion 12 ? (NROL 91) - 2023 CC SLC-37B Delta-4H (upg.)


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