TEL AVIV, Israel Israel's first 24-hour, all-weather, high-resolution radar satellite dubbed TechSAR was inserted into orbit Jan. 21 by an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
The launch, from the Sriharikota test site on the Bay of Bengal in southeast India, marked the seventh successful orbital insertion for the four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and the first cooperative satellite launch between Israel and its principal export customer, defense and industry officials here said.
According to state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI), Israel's sole satellite producing firm, the first signals from the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) spacecraft reached the operational ground control station near IAI headquarters some 80 minutes after launch. ''By all indications so far, the satellite is functioning properly,'' IAI announced.
In a Jan. 21 statement, IAI said company engineers began what will be an extensive, nearly month-long series of in-orbit tests to verify satellite performance. First images from TechSAR are scheduled to be collected in about two weeks.
Israel's Ministry of Defense and its national intelligence agencies will be the primary customers of the day-, night- and all-weather imagery generated by the TechSAR payload, which was developed by Elta Systems Ltd., an IAI subsidiary. Despite the strategic intelligence-gathering mission assigned to the nationally-funded TechSAR, Israel's Ministry of Defense did not provide a statement on the launch and referred all queries to IAI.
''We're all very proud of this achievement, which serves as additional proof of IAI's great technological and administrative capabilities, and of IAI's leadership in the Israeli space industry,'' noted Itzhak Nissan, IAI's president and chief executive officer.
TechSAR's successful launch follows repeated technical and weather-related delays. The Israeli satellite was delivered to the Indian launch facility by summer 2007 and had completed integration testing on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in time for a fall 2007 launch. However, due to circumstances that neither IAI nor the Indian launch provider was willing to discuss publicly, the satellite was removed from its launch vehicle and held in storage until several weeks before the Jan. 21 launch.