Israeli Scientists Succeed in Firing Their First Sounding Rocket
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Israeli Scientists Succeed in Firing Their First Sounding Rocket

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Israel today fired an Israel-designed and Israel-made multi-stage sounding rocket, the first in a series designed to map the stratosphere and ionosphere in this part of the world. The successful firing this morning from a secret site on Israel’s Mediterranean shore made Israel the third country to fire and track a sounding rocket.

The rocket weighed about 550 pounds. It was propelled by a solid fuel developed from materials available in Israel.

(The Israeli achievement attracted worldwide attention. The United States National Aeronautics and Space Agency described it as “a wonderful achievement.” Its experts commented on the rapid advance of Israel’s technology. A State Department source criticized Israel for spending time and money on “presumptuous” rocket projects instead of on seeking regional peace. New York and London afternoon papers featured the Israeli rocket stories and the London Evening Standard headline proclaimed that “now Israel joins the space race.”)

The Israel Defense Ministry, in announcing the successful firing of a rocket to a height of 52 miles, also disclosed that Israel had developed a number of observation posts which photographed the trajectory of the initial rocket flight. Scientists said subsequent rockets will carry electronic measuring devices which presumably will transmit information to ground receiving stations.


The rocket carried powdered metallic sodium which was released to form a small white cloud through which measurements were possible of the direction and speed of winds at high altitudes. Scientists said that the rocket was not a guided one. The package sent aloft today apparently did not carry any telemetry instruments.

The firing took place in the presence of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Deputy Defense Minister Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Zvi Tzur and a number of scientists and other defense officials. They watched the firing from a point some 1,300 feet away in a sandbagged improvised shelter.

Within seconds after the launch of Shavit II, the rocket disappeared, trailing black smoke. Special equipment watched its progress until it apparently disintegrated high in space. The Prime Minister was informed that “the purpose of the test was fully achieved.” He wanted to leave the shelter immediately but was persuaded to remain a few minutes when fears were expressed that some splinters from the disintegrating rocket might fall on the area.

When the all-clear was sounded, the Prime Minister quickly telephoned President Ben-Zvi. Instructions were sent to all Israel diplomatic missions abroad to report the successful firing.


The news caught Israelis by complete surprise. Kol Yisrael interrupted its regular program to flash the news and evening dailies issued special editions. The countries which Israel has now joined in firing a rocket are the United States, Britain, Russia, France, Italy and Japan. Available information indicated that that only Sweden and West Germany were in the planning stages of firing such rockets which are of key importance in space research for meteorological purposes.

The idea for Israeli participation in such rocket research came from Israeli scientists who took part in the recent International Geophysical Year. A special research branch of the Government gave the plan a go-ahead.

Subsequent rocket shots in the series were expected to promote the study of cosmic radiation in which the Technion Institute of Technology has acquired considerable status for its research program. All Israeli scientific institutes and overseas institutions which maintain scientific cooperation with Israel were expected to be given full access to all findings in the space research program.

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