" - שביט) or RSA-3
is a space launch vehicle
produced by Israel
and South Africa
to launch small satellites
into low earth orbit
. It was first launched on September 19
(carrying an Ofeq
satellite payload), making Israel the eighth country
to have a space launch capability. Shavit rockets are launched from the seashore
by the Israeli Space Agency
into a retrograde orbit
over the Mediterranean Sea
to prevent debris coming down in populated areas and also to avoid flying over nations hostile to Israel to the east; this results in a lower payload-to-orbit than east-directed launches would allow. The launcher consists of three stages powered by solid fuel rocket motors
, with an optional liquid fuel
fourth stage, and is manufactured by IAI
. Shavit is based on the Jericho II intermediate-range ballistic missile
The Shavit has been launched seven times:
- 1988 - Ofeq 1 - Success - experimental payload.
- 1991 - Ofeq 2 - Success - experimental payload.
- 1995 - Ofeq 3 - Success - first operational satellite in orbit.
- 1998 - Ofeq 4 - Failure.
- 2002 - Ofeq 5 - Success - second operational satellite in orbit.
- 2004 - Ofeq 6 - Failure.
- 2007 - Ofeq 7 - Success - third operational satellite in orbit.
On the fourth and sixth flights, the vehicle failed before reaching space. The September 2004 failure of the Shavit resulted in the destruction of the $100 million Ofeq 6 spy satellite. Israel has announced that it will use the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, developed by India's ISRO for future Ofeq launches. There was widespread criticism about that decision as some quarters wanted to use only Shavit for launch for reasons of national pride. Israel launched TecSar SAR satellite on India's PSLV on January, 21 2008.