from the May 2014 issue

Ofek 10 Launched Successfully

Israel launched the Ofek 10 spy satellite from the Palmachim base in central Israel during the night. In the coming hours it became known that the launch was successful and that the satellite had moved into its correct orbit. The satellite was sent to space by the Shavit launcher, which is operated by two main motors manufactured by Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI).

Once the satellite is in orbit, it will undergo a series of tests designed to verify that it is fully operational and the level of performance is as required. The Ofek 10 contains the most advanced imaging equipment based on radar that can photograph at night and in any weather including the cloudiest conditions, and this distinguishes it from previous satellites. The launch was carried out by the Ministry of Defense and Israel Aerospace Industies Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1).

This is the sixth spy satellite launched by Israel and it will allow Israel to conduct unlimited monitoring of developments throughout the Middle East and the world.

Ofek 10 joins Ofek 9 in space. Ofek 9, which was launched in June 2010, is an imaging and intelligence gathering satellite developed by IAI and costing $300 million. Ofek 9 has sent back exceptional quality images and it is able to identify objects just dozens of centimeters in size. This is technology possessed by very few countries around the world.

"We continue to increase the vast qualitative and technological advantage over our neighbors," said Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at the launch at a test site in central Israel. "Our ability to continuously reach new levels of accomplishment, as with this launch, is what allows us to live a productive and prosperous life. Blessed is the state, and its people." But it functions in a fundamentally new way - instead of automatically sweeping through vast swathes of territory with its cameras, it can momentarily switch between different locations.

This is due to the fact that its operators can alter the orbit of the 330 kilogram satellite between 400 kilometers and 600 kilometers from the Earth's surface in its 90-minute circumnavigation of the planet, while zooming in to take high-resolution images of objects as small as 18 inches across.

"The satellite has exceptional photographic ability," said Ofer Doron, CEO of the Israel Aerospace Industries' Space Division, which was responsible for developing the satellite. "It's designed to deliver very precise, high quality images under all conditions."

Apart from Israel, other countries that operate surveillance satellites include the US, Russia, China, France, Italy, Britain, South Korea, India, Japan, Ukraine and Iran.

Of these nations, Iran poses the greatest threat to security in the eyes of Israeli officials, who have repeatedly insisted that Tehran is on the verge of developing a prototype nuclear weapon. Israel also says it plans to use the new satellite to monitor hostile militant groups, presumably such as Hamas and Hezbollah. In fact, for security reasons, Israel launches its satellites to the west, and not to the east, sacrificing payload, but making sure that no technologically sensitive debris fall on the territory of its rivals, particularly if any satellite fails to reach orbit and plunges to Earth.

But Ofek 10 avoided this fate, and has already begun relaying visuals and information from orbit. It is expected to become fully operational within three months.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report May 2014

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