Launch of Israel's Ofeq 6 spy satellite failed on 6 September when the third stage of the Shavit launcher malfunctioned.

The Israeli-developed booster was launched from Palmachin airbase south of Tel Aviv. The first two stages functioned normally, but the Rafael-built third stage malfunctioned and the launcher plunged into the Mediterranean.

The $50 million Ofeq 6 reconnaissance satellite carried an electro-optical payload built by El-Op and designed to produce 0.5m-resolution monochrome and 1.5m colour images. Israel's ministry of defence and Israel Aircraft Industries are investigating the failure.

Israel is still receiving intelligence imagery from Ofeq 5, launched in 2002 and expected to remain operational until 2006, and from the Eros A1 civil remote-sensing satellite launched in 2000. Eros B is scheduled for launch by Russian rocket later this year, but the launch of Ofeq 7, scheduled for 2008 with the TechSAR synthetic-aperture radar demonstrator as a piggyback payload, may have to be brought forward.

The Shavit three-stage solid-propellant rocket, developed by IAI's MLM division from Israel's Jerico 2 ballistic missile, was first launched in 1988 carrying Ofeq 1 and failed in 1998 with the loss of Ofeq 4. Analysts believe there was one other unannounced failure. The booster is launched eastwards across the Mediterranean to place the satellite in a 143°-inclination low Earth orbit.




Source: Flight International