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Israel launches spy satellite

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(Read caption) Capable of monitoring Iran's nuclear program, the Ofeq 9 spy satellite launched Tuesday on Israel's Shavit launch vehicle.

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Israel launched an "Ofeq 9" satellite on Tuesday, an advanced remote sensing satellite that likely is capable of high resolution surveillance to monitor Iran's nuclear program. The satellite was launched on Israel's Shavit launch vehicle.

The Israel Defense Ministry gave no public details on the satellite, only releasing this statement following the launch: "A few minutes ago the State of Israel launched the Ofek-9 (Horizon-9) satellite from the Palmachim base (Israel's Air Force test range). The results of the launch are being examined by the technical team."

But in an Israel Defense Ministry document provided to Universe Today, the Ofeq 9 satellite was listed as capable of scanning a swath 7 km wide, with a resolution better than 70 cm and a pointing accuracy to within 20 meters. The satellite will initially be launched to an elliptical transfer orbit – 620 x 307 Km, and following the checkout, the final orbit will be approximately 500 km above Earth.

The Shavit launcher is a 3-stage launcher, 20 meters high and weighs approximately 30 tons.

With the launch of Ofeq-9, Israel has six spy satellites in space.

The satellite was made by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. The Shavit launcher has been in use since 1988, when the first Ofeq satellite was put into orbit.

Israel, which has the Middle East's sole undeclared nuclear arsenal, regards Iran as its principal threat after repeated predictions by the Islamic republic's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Jewish state's demise, according to news reports from Jerusalem. Israel suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of its nuclear program, a claim Tehran denies.

Sources: SpaceTravel.com, and special thanks to Avi Blizovsky, Editor Hayadan Science News in Israel.

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Nancy Atkinson blogs at Universe Today.

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