Residents of central Israel were surprised Tuesday morning to see a rocket shooting into the sky from Israeli territory, with white smoke trailing behind it.
According to the Defense Ministry, the rocket launch was a test of a new rocket propulsion system, which was launched from a military base in central Israel.
The launch was a pre-scheduled test of the system, the ministry said in a statement, adding that it went off “as planned.”
The engine in question is meant to propel ballistic missiles that can carry satellites into space, according to the ministry.
The launch was a rare sight for the country’s economic center, though not unprecedented. In 2012, a joint missile defense drill with the US sent four missiles skyward from the Tel Aviv area.
The launch Tuesday was unconnected to missile defense systems currently being developed by Israel, news site Nana reported.
According to foreign news reports published after a previous test two years ago, the rocket propulsion system was part of the Jericho ballistic missile program, which includes the satellite-launching Shavit missile.
Israel is one of only a handful of countries possessing the ability to launch satellites into orbit using entirely indigenous infrastructures and technologies.