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September 19: Israel in Outer Space

September 18, 2013
Israel became the ninth country on our planet to launch a satellite into outer space on this date in 1988. “Ofeq 1” (Horizon 1) was launched from the Negev over the Mediterranean and served several missions: surveillance/reconnaissance, experimentation with solar power, data collection about the space environment and Earth’s magnetic field, and more. The Israeli Space Agency was created in 1983, and today has cooperation agreements with agencies in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, and the USA. Today there are more than 3,000 satellites out of some 24,500 space objects that are orbiting our planet; 2,400 are owned by the U.S. and Russia. Satellites usually functional for between five and twenty years; the first, Sputnik, launched by the USSR in 1957, transmitted signals for 22 days. To watch a 1957 news report about Sputnik, look below. Israel’s “launches are unusual in that they take place in a westerly direction. This is to avoid overflying Arab territories to the east, but it means that the launch vehicle must travel against the direction of Earth spin’s and so work harder to achieve orbital velocity, thus reducing the payload that can be delivered.” —The Encyclopedia of Science