Reconnaissance satellite launched into orbit by Israel
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: June 11, 2007
Under the cloak of secrecy, Israel launched a military spy satellite early Monday with the ability to eavesdrop on Iran and Syria amid heightening tensions in the region.
The launch occurred at 2340 GMT Sunday (7:40 p.m. EDT), or in the pre-dawn hours Monday morning in Israel, according to Israel Radio.
The Ofek 7 satellite used Israel's Shavit rocket for the trip into orbit. Launch occurred from the Palmahim air base near Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast, Israel Radio reported.
The three-stage Shavit flew west over the Mediterranean Sea, placing the satellite in a retrograde orbit a few minutes after liftoff. Spacecraft in a retrograde orbit fly in the opposite direction of Earth's rotation.
The Shavit rocket and Ofek 7 were both manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries.
Officials said it would take several days to confirm the health of the new craft. When declared operational, Ofek 7 is designed to beam back unprecedented reconnaissance imagery for up to four years, according to Israel Radio.
The 661-pound satellite will orbit Earth at an altitude of about 375 miles, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The launch was Israel's first for a homemade rocket system since the Shavit failed to place the Ofek 6 satellite in orbit in 2004. The last successful flight of the Shavit launched Ofek 5, which continues to operate beyond its designed lifetime.
Israel's Defense Ministry is also purchasing imagery collected by the nation's commercial remote sensing satellites.
Israel plans to launch its first radar reconnaissance craft by the end of this year, further advancing the country's space-based imaging infrastructure. Radar spy satellites can see through clouds and darkness.
Sunday's mission was the 25th space launch of the year to successfully reach orbit.