Tag Archives: Israel

Vega completes a successful launch of VENµS and OPTSAT-000

Arianespace launched the lightest of their three vehicles on Tuesday (sorry for my late post; it’s been busy) placing two Earth observation spacecraft into orbit: VENµS and OPTSAT-3000. Yes, you read that right — there’s a lower-case mu in the name of the first one.  I think you’re meant to pronounce it “Venus”, but I’m not 100% sure.

VENµS is the Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro-Satellite (VENµS), which is where the mu comes from — one of the more creative acronyms I’ve seen.  😉  It was built by the Israeli Space Agency and will be operated by France’s CNES, which also supplied one of the instruments, as a cooperative venture between the two nations.  This is Israel’s first major scientific spacecraft, following on from a nanosatellite they flew earlier in the year.  The spacecraft will also test a Hall effect thruster supplied by ISA.

OPTSAT-3000, meanwhile, is Italy’s first optical surveillance spacecraft.  It, too, was built in Israel, but this one is for military purposes.  It joins Italy’s existing fleet of radar surveillance satellites.  OPTSAT-3000 is part of a qui-pro-quo arrangement between the Italian and Israeli governments; in exchange for buying the satellite from Israel, Israel bought a set of Italian fighter jet trainers.  The exact capabilities of OPTSAT-3000 are of course undisclosed, although Italy did indicate it would be comparable to Digital Globe’s best WorldView images.

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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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