Israel today used its indigenous Shavit launcher to successfully insert into space its newest Ofeq-7 spy satellite.The June 11 launch — at 2.40 a.m. from a military base along the nation’s central Mediterranean coast — marked a much-needed success after the September 2004 loss of Ofeq-6 due to failures of the launch vehicle. The newest space craft, with its high-resolution optical imaging payload, will replace the five-year-old Ofeq-5, which is nearing the end of its operational life.Defense and industry officials here said the newest spycraft was launched to an elliptical orbit of 300×600 kilometers and appears to be functioning properly. Following separation from the launcher, Ofeq-7 performed a series of autonomous activities, including deployment of its solar panels.The satellite will undergo several tests in the coming days “to validate its serviceability and satisfactory performance,” Israel’s Ministry of Defense noted in a June 11 statement.Ofeq-7, like its predecessors in the Ofeq series, as well as the Shavit launcher are produced by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. Elop, a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems, produces the imaging payload.

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