IAI/MLM's Division SHAVIT launcher offers various options for launching small satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The global market trend towards the use of smaller satellites for remote sensing, telecommunications, science and other commercial, civilian and military applications is the major driver for MLM the Systems Division of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to offer orbit insertion services using its SHAVIT family of satellite launchers. IAI/MLM Division leads the Israeli space industry into the international commercial satellite launching market. Through strategic alliances, constant improvement of its launchers diversity and competitiveness.
SHAVIT is a three or four stages configuration satellite launcher, powered by three solid fuel rocket motors, where the 4th stage is liquid propulsion. Shavit is based on the 2-stage Jericho 2 ballistic missile and developed under the general management of Israeli Aircraft Industries and in particular its MBT System and Space Technology subsidiary. The first two solid rocket engines of the Shavit are manufactured by TAAS (formerly Israel Military Industries), and the third stage motor was designed and produced by Rafael (the Arms Development Research Authority). Israeli Aircraft Industries is the prime contractor. The upper stage of the Shavit is designated AUS-51 (Advanced Upper Stage) and since September, 1992, has been offered commercially under a cooperative venture by the Israeli firm Rafael, which developed and manufactures the AUS-51, and the American Atlantic Research Corporation.
Since the first launch of OFEK in 1988, the SHAVIT launcher was continuously improved in order to enable insertion into orbit of ever more advanced OFEK satellites. Since 1988 MLM has Successfully Launched several Mini Satellites, with Maximum Weight of over 300 kg (Westward). Israel's Shavit (Comet) launch vehicle first flew on 19 September 1988, placing the Ofeq 1 engineering technology satellites into LEO. The third flight of Shavit was postponed in early 1994 until 1995, in part, due to budgetary constraints. By 2006 Israel was nearing completion of an upgrade of its troubled Shavit-class satellite launch vehicle. Executives said the state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries would complete the upgrade of the Shavit launcher in 2007. They said the three-stage Shavit would contain numerous new hardware components and becapable of carrying a greater satellite payload. The launcher used to launch OFEK 7 was more capable and reliable than the launcher used for OFEK 5 in 2002.Shavit was proposed to launch an American commercial recoverable spacecraft (COMET) which would have required a payload of 800 kg or more inserted into a low altitude orbit (References 99-101).
The first two stages lift the launcher to an altitude of approximately 110 km. From this point, the launcher continues to gain height while coasting up to approximately 250 km, where the launcher positions itself and ejects the satellite shroud. After the separation of the main instrumentation compartment and while the launcher is spinning, the third stage motor is ignited. Thus, the satellite is inserted accurately into its transfer orbit at an altitude of approximately 260 km.
A much more capable upper stage was under development in the early 1990s [but never flown] by Israeli Aircraft Industries for much larger launch vehicles with a GEO objective. Called the Cryogenic Transfer Module (CTM), the stage burns liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to produce a thrust of approximately one metric ton. CTM is designed to lift a 2.1 metric ton satellite from a 200 km, 28 degree parking orbit to GEO and was scheduled to be ready for flight by the end of 1992 but was awaiting a mission which never came
In 1993-1994 Israel proposed the development of an improved Shavit launcher called Next, which would be available to the international commercial market. The standard 3-stage Next launch vehicle would differ little from Shavit and could deliver up to 400 kg payloads to polar orbits from launch sites outside Israel. A 4-stage variant of Next is envisioned with extended first and second stages and a new liquid propellant fourth stage equipped with a GPS receiver for greater orbital insertion accuracy (References 104-106).
Shavit boosters are launched from a site near the Palmachim Air Force Base on the coast of Israel south of Tel Aviv. The facility is also sometimes referred to as Yavne. To prevent overflight of foreign territory, Shavits have been launched on a northwest trajectory over the Mediterranean Sea, passing over the Straits of Gibraltar at the west end of the Mediterranean. This procedure significantly reduces the payload capacity of the launch vehicle and severely limits potential operational orbits.
MLM has developed the advanced SHAVIT Launcher configurations, which will increase lift capability to 350 kg (Westward). The LEOLINK program was initiated to market IAI/MLM Division's launch services for the global market using the current LK-A launcher, while developing LK-1 and LK-2, its next generation launchers:
- LK-A - For 350kg-class satellites in 240x600km elliptical polar orbits.
- LK-1 - For 350kg-class satellites in 700km circular polar orbits.
- LK-2 - For 800kg-class satellites in 700km circular polar orbits.
IAI/MLM continues to pursue multi-sensor micro satellites and airborne launching capabilities. A unique integration and launch concept based on flight-proven hardware and software reduces significantly launch preparation time, and, consequently lowers overall launch costs. SHAVIT utilizes a unique set of launch preparation equipment. It is largely independent of the launch site and provides full testing of the launcher on the launch pad. This configuration enables satellite launch from different launch sites, according to customer requirements.
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