Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Israel Launches Ofeq-9 Satellite

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Israel delivered its latest spy satellite into low Earth orbit on June 22, using an improved version of its indigenous Shavit launcher, defence sources here said.

An official Ministry of Defence (MoD) notice of the launch, which took place about 10 p.m., was expected by midnight, once technicians ascertained that the satellite appeared to be functioning.

By June 25, officials said they should be able to validate the operational capability of the 300-kilogram Ofeq-9 satellite and its subsystems and begin receiving the first pictures from its high-resolution sensor. Ofeq-9 is a "twin brother" of the Shavit-launched Ofeq-7 and Ofeq-5, the former operational since June 2007 and the later since June 2002. A launch failure in September 2004 caused the loss of Israel's planned Ofeq-6 satellite. TecSAR, the country's synthetic aperture radar satellite launched from an Indian rocket in January 2008, now occupies the Ofeq-8 slot in the MoD lineup.

Ofeq-9 will operate in a constellation with the two other Ofeqs currently in orbit. While precise imaging capabilities remain classified, sources here say all three offer resolutions "much better than" a half-meter.

Israel Aerospace Industries is prime contractor for the Ofeq satellites and the Shavit launcher, while Elbit Systems' Elop produces the satellite's high-resolution imaging camera

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