TEL AVIV (Sep. 20)
Ofek One, Israel’s first space satellite, has functioned flawlessly during its first 24 hours in orbit, the space agency reported Tuesday.
The 343-pound, octagonal-shaped satellite, manufactured in Israel, is circling the globe every 90 minutes.
Its telemetry, reporting back to a ground station, indicates that the solar energy collector panels and the high-tech instrumentation they power are operating perfectly.
Ofek — the word means Horizon — blasted off Monday morning and was hurled into space by an Israeli-made, three-stage Shavit rocket. The launching site was Palmachim beach, just south of Tel Aviv.
According to foreign news reports, the Shavit is based on the Jericho III solid-fuel rocket developed by Rafael, Israel’s weapons development authority.
The first stage plunged into the sea. The other two stages will continue in low orbit until they are burned out by atmospheric friction.
Ofek is believed to be the only space satellite travelling from east to west. It was launched in that direction to make sure the first stage fell into the sea and to avoid debris dropping on any neighboring country.
But some have insisted it was because Hebrew is written from right to left, unlike most alphabets.
The successful launch made Israel the eighth country in the world capable of sending an object into orbit. The Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, followed by the United States a year later.
Other members of the “Space Club,” in order of entry, are Japan, France, China, Britain and India. Brazil is expected to become the ninth member, after Israel.