|Mission type||Radar imaging|
|Launch mass||295 kilograms (650 lb)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||21 January 2008, 03:45UTC|
|Launch site||Satish Dhawan FLP|
|Contractor||Indian Space Research Organisation|
|Perigee altitude||450 kilometres (280 mi)|
|Apogee altitude||580 kilometres (360 mi)|
|Epoch||20 January 2008, 22:45:00 UTC|
EL/M-2070 TecSAR, also known as TechSAR, Polaris and Ofek-8, is an Israeli reconnaissance satellite, equipped with synthetic aperture radar developed by Elta Systems. It was successfully launched at 03:45 GMT (09:15 local time) on 21 January 2008, by PSLV C-10 Launch Vehicle, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India.
The TecSAR satellite is fitted with a large dish-like antenna to transmit and receive radar signals that can penetrate darkness and thickness of clouds. Built by Israel Aerospace Industries, TecSAR ranks among the world's most advanced space systems.
Elta Systems Ltd cooperates with Azerbaijan to produce a TecSAR reconnaissance satellite system for the country. According to Azerbaijani military experts, this is an indispensable system for military operations in the mountainous terrains of Azerbaijan.
The satellite was successfully delivered into its target orbit about twenty minutes after launch. The four-stage PSLV rocket flew in the CA, or "Core Alone" configuration, with no strap-on solid rocket boosters. PSLV-C10, as the rocket used to launch TecSAR was designated, was the second flight of a PSLV-CA, and the twelfth overall for the PSLV series. Launch was contracted by the Antrix Corporation, the commercial department of the Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO. The TecSAR represents the first Israeli use of the Indian PSLV launcher. This made possible an orbit that could not be reached from Israel, with an altitude of 450-580 kilometers and inclination of 41 degrees. As a result, TecSAR cruises from west to east, unlike all the other surveillance satellites launched from Israel itself.
The PSLV was selected as TecSAR's launch vehicle since the Shavit rocket that was used to launch the Ofeq series of satellites put constraints on possible satellite orbits. Any launch from Israeli territory must be directed westwards, towards the sea, in order to prevent the launcher's first stages (or the satellite itself, in case of a malfunction) from falling on populated areas or on foreign territory. A westward launch, that is, against the direction of the Earth's rotation, seriously restricts the weight of the satellite that the launch vehicle can carry. In the past, Israel also experienced several failures - the most recent example being the attempted Ofeq-6 launch in March 2004. In such cases, security links and the operational experience of another partner can allow alternative launches when needed.
The launch was delayed several times for unclear reasons. At one point, it was rumoured that the launch had been cancelled completely due to pressure from the US Government. Indian and Israeli authorities denied this, however, citing technical problems instead. In Israel it was rumoured that the launch had been delayed due to Iranian pressure on the Indian government. However this was eventually proven to be baseless speculation.
It is capable of imaging with a resolution of up to 10 centimetres, through an X-band radar system. The satellite's maximum resolution is believed to be around 1 metre. TecSAR is the first Israeli satellite to feature Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which will provide images day or night and under all weather conditions. The satellite is being operated by Israel Aerospace Industries.
TecSAR considerably enhances Israel's intelligence-gathering capability. The satellite could potentially be the start of new strategic relations between Israel and India, and could affect the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.
Israeli media discussed the strategic significance of the satellite, particularly with regard to Iran. It was reported that TecSAR's ability to produce images in adverse weather and at night would allow Israel to obtain more information about the suspected Iranian nuclear weapons program. It was also reported that it would be capable of producing images of Iranian activities which previous satellites were unable to view.
Another report claimed that should Israel enter a conflict with Iran in the future, information provided by TecSAR could prove critical.
A fortnight after the launch, Iranian Ambassador Seyed Mehdi Nabitzadeh announced in a press conference in New Delhi that he had conveyed Iran's point of view to the Indian government regarding the launch. He emphasized his hope that "wise and independent countries like India do not give their advanced space technologies to launch spying operations against Iran". The Indians however stress that the launch was purely a commercial one.
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