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Function Expendable launch vehicle
Manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries
Country of origin Israel
Height 26.4 m (86.6 ft)
Diameter 1.35 m (4.43 ft)
Mass 30,500–70,000 kg (67,200–154,000 lb)
Stages 4
Payload to
350–800kg[1] (770–1760 lb)
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites Palmachim Airbase
Total launches 9
Successes 7
Failures 2
First flight 19 September 1988
First Stage (Shavit LeoLink LK-1) - LK-1
Engines LK-1
Thrust 774.0 kN (174,002 lbf)
Specific impulse 268 sec
Burn time 55 seconds
First Stage (Shavit LeoLink LK-2) - Castor 120
Thrust 1650.2kN (370,990 lbf)
Specific impulse 280 sec
Burn time 82 sec
Fuel HTPB polymer, Class1.3 C
Second Stage - LK-1
Engines 1 LK-1
Thrust 774.0 kN
Specific impulse 268 sec
Burn time 55 sec
Third Stage - RSA-3-3
Engines 1 RSA-3-3
Thrust 58.8 kN
Specific impulse 298 sec
Burn time 94 seconds
Fuel Solid
Fourth Stage - LK-4
Engines 1 LK-4
Thrust 402 kN
Specific impulse 200 sec
Burn time 800 seconds
Fuel N2O4/UDMH

Shavit (Hebrew: "comet" – שביט) is a space launch vehicle produced by Israel to launch small satellites into low Earth orbit. It was first launched on September 19, 1988 (carrying an Ofeq satellite payload), making Israel the eighth nation to have a space launch capability[2] after the USSR, United States, France, Japan, People's Republic of China, and India.

Shavit rockets are launched from Palmachim Airbase by the Israeli Space Agency into highly retrograde orbits over the Mediterranean Sea to prevent debris coming down in populated areas and also to avoid flying over nations hostile to Israel to the east; this results in a lower payload-to-orbit than east-directed launches would allow.[2][3] The launcher consists of three stages powered by solid fuel rocket motors, with an optional liquid fuel fourth stage, and is manufactured by IAI.

The Republic of South Africa produced and tested a licensed version in cooperation with Israel called the RSA-3 in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to produce a domestic satellite launch vehicle and ballistic missile; the program was closed in 1994.[4]

An earlier unrelated project called Shavit 2 was the first sounding rocket which Israel launched on 5 July 1961 for meteorological research.[5] Shavit Three, with an altitude reported as 100 miles, was launched on August 11, 1961.[6]


  • Development 1
  • Vehicle description 2
  • Proposed LK civilian launch variants 3
  • Launch history 4
  • South African RSA Series 5
  • Comparable solid fuel rockets 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8


The development of Shavit began in 1982.[7] Shavit was a three-stage, solid-propellant launcher designed to carry payloads up to 250 kg into low earth orbit. It was speculated for some time and later confirmed that the first two stages of the Shavit were that of the Jericho II missile.[8]

Shavit was first launched in 1988 and because of its geographic location and hostile relations with surrounding countries, Israel had to launch it to the west, over the Mediterranean Sea, in order to avoid flying over those hostile territories to its east. The practice has continued ever since.[9]

Vehicle description

The first of the Shavit vehicles were a small, 3-stage, solid propellant booster based on the 2-stage Jericho-II ballistic missile and developed under the general management of Israeli Aircraft Industries and in particular its MBT System and Space Technology subsidiary. Israel Military Industries produces the first and second-stage motors, while Rafael is responsible for the third-stage motor.[10]

A planned commercial Shavit upgrade was called Next. This name is no longer used, and this proposed upgrade configuration is now called Shavit-2. Both first and second stages of the Shavit-2 use the stretched motor design of the Shavit-1 first stage.

Proposed LK civilian launch variants

In 1998 Israel Space Agency partnered with U.S. Coleman Research Corporation (now a division of L-3 Communications) to develop the LK family of small launch vehicles.[11] In 2001 a new French joint-venture, LeoLink, between Astrium and Israel Aircraft Industries, was created to market the LK variant.[12] It is believed that in 2002 development of the LK variant was discontinued.[13]

The LK-1 was closely based on the Shavit-2, but with motors and other components built in the United States to satisfy U.S. government requirements.[11] The LK-2 was a larger vehicle using a Thiokol Castor 120 motor as its first stage. The third stage was either a standard AUS-51 motor built under license by Atlantic Research Corp., or a Thiokol Star 48 motor. All launch vehicles would have had a small monopropellant hydrazine fourth stage.[14]

  • LK-A – for 350 kg-class satellites in 240 x 600 km elliptical polar orbits.
  • LK-1 – for 350 kg-class satellites in 700 km circular polar orbits.
  • LK-2 – for 800 kg-class satellites in 700 km circular polar orbits.

A Shavit LK air-launched satellite launcher was proposed by ISA and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). The booster would have been a standard Shavit-1 or Shavit-2 without a first stage that would be dropped from a Hercules C-130. An Alternative proposal consisted of a full launch stack carried atop Boeing 747 aircraft, similar to how the Space Shuttle was carried, through the Straits of Tiran and past the Arabian Peninsula into open sea; this called for a zoom climb launch over the Indian ocean permitting the eastward boost from the rotation of the earth rather than launching into a westward retrograde orbit over the Mediterranean nearly doubling the maximum payload weight.[14][15]

Launch history

The Shavit has been launched 9 times, placing the payload into orbit seven times. On the fourth and sixth flights, the vehicle failed before reaching space. Most non-Israeli satellites are launched eastward to gain a boost from the Earth's rotational speed. However, the Shavit is launched westward (retrograde orbit) over the Mediterranean to avoid flying and dropping spent rocket stages over populated areas in Israel and neighboring Arab countries. The Shavit is also said to be made available for commercial launches in the near future. Of the seven launches two are the basic Shavit, four are the Shavit-1 and the last one being Shavit-2.

Shavit launch
Variant Date of launch Launch location Payload Mission status
Shavit 19 September 1988 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-1 Success
Shavit 3 April 1990 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-2 Success
Shavit-1 5 April 1995 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-3 Success
Shavit-1 22 January 1998 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-4 Failure
Shavit-1 28 May 2002 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-5 Success
Shavit-1 6 September 2004 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-6 Failure
Shavit-2 11 June 2007 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-7 Success
Shavit-2 22 June 2010 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-9 Success[16]
Shavit-2 9 April 2014 Palmachim Airbase Ofek-10 Success[2]

The September 2004 failure of the Shavit resulted in the destruction of the $100 million Ofeq 6 spy satellite. Israel used Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in the subsequent launch for the TecSAR SAR satellite,[17] while upgrading the Shavit launcher. On the upgraded Shavit 2, the followup Ofeq 7 was successfully launched on a Shavit rocket in 2007.

South African RSA Series

The Jericho II missile-Shavit SLV was also license produced in the Republic of South Africa as the RSA series of space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles. The RSA-3 was produced by the Houwteq (a discontinued division of Denel) company at Grabouw, 30 km east of Cape Town. Test launches were made from Overberg Test Range near Bredasdorp, 200 km east of Cape Town. Rooi Els was where the engine test facilities were located. Development continued even after South African renunciation[18] of its nuclear weapons for use as a commercial satellite launcher. Development actually reached its height in 1992 a year after nuclear renunciation with 50 - 70 companies involved, employing 1300 -1500 people from the public and private sector.[19][20] A much heavier ICBM or space launch vehicle, the RSA-4, with a first stage in the Peacekeeper ICBM class but with Jericho-2/RSA-3 upper-stage components was in development.[4][21][22]

Variant Date of Launch Launch Location Payload Mission Status
RSA-3 1989 June 1 Overberg Test Range RSA-3-d 1 Apogee: 100 km (60 mi)
RSA-3 1989 July 6 Overberg Test Range RSA-3 2 Apogee: 300 km (180 mi)
RSA-3 1990 November 19 Overberg Test Range RSA-3 3 Apogee: 300 km (180 mi)

In June 1994 the RSA-3 / RSA-4 South African satellite launcher program was cancelled[23]

Comparable solid fuel rockets

See also


  1. ^ "Shavit", Space launch systems, Deagel .
  2. ^ a b c "Shavit". Space Launch Report. 20 April 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Stephen Clark (22 June 2010). "New Israeli spy satellite blasts off into the night". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "RSA". Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  5. ^ Google Books [3] [4]
  6. ^ Chicago Tribune. August 12, 1961. p. 4. 
  7. ^ Zorn, EL (Winter–Spring 2001). "Israel's Quest for Satellite Intelligence" (PDF). Studies in Intelligence ( 
  8. ^ "Missile", Israel (profile), NTI .
  9. ^ "Shavit", Britannica .
  10. ^ "Israel", Guide, FAS .
  11. ^ a b "Israel Missile Update". The Risk Report ( 
  12. ^ "LeoLink Incorporated to Market Shavit Derivatives". Space & tech Digest. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  13. ^ Wade, Mark. "Shavit". Astronautix. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  14. ^ a b "Description", Israel, DE: Space rockets .
  15. ^ "Israel Studies Airborne Launch Scheme for Shavit Rocket". Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  16. ^ Greenberg, Hanan (22 June 2010). "Israel launches spy satellite". Ynet. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  17. ^ Stephen Clark (21 January 2008). "Covert satellite for Israel launched by Indian rocket". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Iain McFadyen. "The South African Rocket & Space Programme". Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  20. ^ Guy Martin. "Satellites for South Africa". Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  21. ^ "RSA-3". Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "RSA-4". Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "South Africa". Retrieved 6 February 2015. 

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