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Ofek 13 Military Satellite Launched by Israel in a Shavit-2 Rocket; Will Provide Better Quality Images

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Edited by: TJVNews.com

Israel has launched a Shavit-2 rocket carrying a military satellite into a retrograde orbit from its space launch base in Palmachim, on the coast of central Israel south of Tel Aviv, according to a report on the nasaspaceflight.com web site.

The launch took place at 23:10 UTC on Tuesday, March 28 (2:10 AM local time on Wednesday, March 29) from Pad 1 at the Palmachim military air base, the report indicated. The three stage Shavit vehicle lit up the night sky as it climbed into space, successfully placing the Ofek 13 satellite into a retrograde orbit.

Nasaspaceflight.com reported that Ofek, which is “horizon” in Hebrew, is the name applied to all Israeli military reconnaissance satellites launched aboard the Shavit family, though Ofek 8, also known as TecSAR-1, was launched aboard an Indian PSLV launch vehicle from Sriharikota in 2008.

The Ofek 13 satellite is said to be a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities, as was reported by the nasaspaceflight.com web site. SAR can penetrate clouds and observe targets at any time of the day or night, giving it a notable advantage over optical Earth observation systems.

Due to geography, Israel must use retrograde orbits, with the launch vehicle flying west over the Mediterranean Sea, to avoid spent stages endangering civilian areas and to avoid overflying neighboring countries to the east, according to the report on nasaspaceflight.com. An orbital inclination of approximately 143 degrees is typically used for these launches.

The satellite, the latest in a line of Israeli observation assets in space, will provide the military with better-quality images than its predecessors, as was reported by the Times of Israel.

In a statement following the launch. the Israeli Defense Ministry said, “The ‘Ofek-13’ satellite is a [synthetic-aperture radar] observation satellite with advanced capabilities.”

The TOI also reported that in a second statement from the defense ministry a few hours after the launch, it said the satellite “successfully entered orbit, has begun transmitting data, and completed an initial series of inspections in accordance with original launch plans.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hailed the launch of the Ofek-13 as “yet another important example of the Israeli defense establishment’s groundbreaking innovation,” according to the TOI report.

He added that ,“Israel has already proved its diverse space capabilities many times and is one of very few countries to possess such capabilities, capabilities that we continue to develop and strengthen”

The satellite’s development and production were led by the Defense Ministry’s Space and Satellite Administration, with development involving various IDF bodies, including the visual intelligence Unit 9900 and the air force, as was reported by the TOI.  Israel Aerospace Industries was the main contractor involved in the project. Israel’s state-owned Rafael and Tomer defense firms produced the launch engines.

Avi Berger, the head of the defense ministry’s space unit said, “Initial indications from the satellite are very good. Within the coming weeks, we will complete technical tests and receive the first pictures before delivering the satellite for operational use by the IDF,” the report indicated.

This flight is the 10th successful Israeli satellite launch out of 12 attempts, and the sixth successful launch of the current Shavit-2 launch vehicle, as was reported by nasaspaceflight.com.  Israel launched Ofek 1 into orbit in September 1988 using the first version of the Shavit rocket, which is based on the first two stages of the Jericho-II ballistic missile.

The 1988 launch made Israel the eighth nation to launch a satellite to orbit with an indigenous rocket, as was reported by the nasaspaceflight.com web site. Israel has a launch cadence approximating once every three years or so, and successful launches of Shavit family rockets took place in 1990, 1995, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2014, 2016, 2020, and now 2023.






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