Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI)is testing an upgraded Shavit launcher capable of placing heavier satellites into low- Earth orbit. The uprated booster is required to launch the synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) intelligence satellite under construction by IAI for the Israeli defence forces.

Built by IAI's MLM division using solid rocket motors produced by Israel Military Industries, the upgraded three-stage Shavit is capable of placing a 500kg (1,100lb) payload in low orbit. IAI's MBT division is building the SAR satellite, with the radar imaging payload provided by IAI's Elta subsidiary. Sources say a foreign country is sharing the development cost.

IAI and Rafael, meanwhile, are in talks on forming a joint venture to develop microsatellites for the Israeli air force and foreign customers. Rafael's move into microsatellites had caused tension with IAI.

IAI has asked organisations including French space agency CNES to assist in determining the potential market for satellites under 100kg. The Israeli air force is evaluating the use of microsatellites, stored at air bases and air-launched on demand, to detect surface-to-surface missile launchers.

Source: Flight International