Israel’s Shavit-2 Launches the Ofeq-11 Satellite — But There’s a Problem

Yesterday, Israel carried out a rare retrograde satellite launch using their Shavit-2 solid-rocket launch vehicle.  All of Israel’s launches are into retrograde orbits, as they must launch westward into a narrow band of the Mediterranean Sea to avoid overflying not just densely populated areas but densely populated areas that are famously hostile to Israel.  Very few nations launch retrograde, because of the massive upmass penalty imposed by having to shed all the kinetic energy gained from the Earth’s rotation, but for their military launches they feel it is worth the price.

The payload was Ofeq-11, a military satellite presumed to be a photoreconnaissance satellite.  As a military satellite, it is not unusual for the operator to be tight-lipped about it, but the Israeli Defense Ministry has nevertheless said that there has been some sort of anomaly.  The launch appears to have been nominal, but the spacecraft doesn’t appear to be responding properly.

Depending on the cause, this could be a low for Israel Aerospace Industries, the spacecraft’s manufacturer, which is already facing the financial fallout of having lost a payload to the recent Falcon 9 launch pad accident.

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