The Defense Ministry announced the launch of a reconnaissance satellite into space early Monday.
“The Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries successfully launched… the reconnaissance satellite ‘Ofek 16’ into space,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said the launch occurred at 4 a.m. using a Shavit launch vehicle that took off from an unidentified site in central Israel.
The ministry described Ofek 16 as an “optoelectronic reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities,” without further elaborating. It said the satellite would undergo a series of tests after entering orbit.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz later touted the launch as a “great achievement” for Israel.
“The State of Israel’s technological and intelligence superiority is the cornerstone of its security,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’ll continue to strengthen and fortify Israel’s strength on every front and every place.”
It was the first launch of an Israeli satellite into space since Spacecom’s Amos-17 was put into orbit last year on a SpaceX rocket that blasted off from Florida.
Israel launched its first satellite, the Ofek 1, into space in 1988, footage of which was released by the Defense Ministry in 2018.
It was not until seven years later, in 1995, that Israel launched a reconnaissance satellite into space capable of photographing the Earth.
Original: TOI Staff
The Space Administration in IMoD has led the development and production of the satellite and its launcher. IAI is the prime contractor, having assigned the program to its Systems, Missiles and Space Group together with the MLM Division, which is responsible for the development of the launcher. Elbit Systems is responsible for the development and production of the satellite’s advanced camera and payload. The launch engines were developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Tomer, a government-owned company. Additional companies have participated in the program, including Rokar and Cielo.
The Director of Security for the Defense Establishment oversaw the security arrangements of the program. Lastly, various IDF officials, primarily from the Intelligence Corps and Air Force have also been deeply involved in the satellite development process. Once the satellite is deemed fully operational, the Ministry of Defense will deliver responsibilities to the IDF’s ‘9900’ Intelligence Unit.