Bad luck after Amos-6 – Israeli military satellite with problems

It seems that after two weeks after disaster of Falcon-9 rocket with Israeli satellite Amos-6 on atop, another launch of Israeli spacecraft was conducted with troubles. 

Mission of Ofek-11 was classified due the fact that spacecraft is high resolution imaging reconnaissance satellite based on Opsat-3000. Built by Israel Aerospace Industries for ministry of Defense of Israel was considered as support for Ofeq-10 which was SAR reconnaissance satellite launched in 2014. Ofek-11 was launched on Tuesday, 13th September 2016 at 14:30 GMT from Palmachim Air Force Base placed on the Mediterranean Sea coast about 25 km from Tel Aviv. Due the good weather and natural conditions launch was clearly seen from Tel Aviv and it was rather impossible to keep it in secret. Trajectory of the launch vehicle was directed to west (as usual in case of Israeli military satellites they are launched in the opposite direction then Earth's rotation due the drop zones located far from coast line) over the Mediterranean Sea. Problems with Ofek-10 started after reaching orbit by Shavit-2 rocket. According to Haaretz, tests of satellite performed as usual after deploying solar arrays went not as it was planned. Character of problems was not announced, but as stated Amnon Harari, director of aerospace program at Ministry of Defense, there are reasons to be far from success. Of course it not means, that satellite is completely out of order, but if we consider how many issues could appear during first phase of mission (jammed solar arrays or problems with deploying of antenna) we can assume, that if institution operating satellite talks about problems, satellite for sure is not perfectly fine.

Shavit-2 rocket is most recent version of Shavit launch vehicle designed in Israel by Israeli Aircraft Industries for Low Earth Orbit missions with lightweight satellites. It was one of the part of Israeli space program with main objective of acquiring independent access to space. First Shavit rocket was launched almost 28 years ago, on September 19, 1988 with first Ofek satellite on atop - it was only six years after decision of developing own launch vehicle was made. According to some sources Shavit derives from Jericho ICBM missile developed in Israel since 1960. One most important fact which is pointing for military origins of the rocket is solid fueled propulsion in each from three stages of the Shivat, what is necessary for reducing time necessary for launch. Rocket is able to lift to LEO payload with mass of 300 kg.

Shivat is based on three stages fueled with HTPB; first two stages are almost exactly the same in design thanks to modular construction of the rocket. They are ATSM-13 boosters with diameter at 1.35 m and length of 7.5 m. Booster is filled with 12.75 t of propellant. Booster weighs 14 t and is able to provide  57.51 t of thrust of 564 kN. Third stage is AUS-51 with length of 2.6 m and diameter at 1.3 m. With total mass of 2.5 t it stores 1.9 t of HTPB. Rocket has been launched previously only with Ofek satellites: on October 6, 2007 with Ofek-7, on June 22, 2010 with Ofek-9 and on September 4, 2014 with Ofek-10 on atop.

On picture above: Shavit rises with Ofek-7 on October 2007.