Israel launches “Ofek 13” surveillance satellite into space

By Arie Egozi

Israel is expanding its presence in space. Israel Ministry of Defense (IMOD) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) successfully launched the “Ofek 13” satellite which began orbiting into space. The satellite was launched on March 29 from an Israeli Air Force base.

The IMoD Space and Satellite Administration in the Directorate of Defense Research & Development (DDR&D), the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) successfully launched the “Ofek 13” satellite into space at 02:10 IST today. The launch took place at a test site in central Israel using a “Shavit” launcher.

The satellite successfully entered orbit, has begun transmitting data, and completed an initial series of inspections in accordance with original launch plans.

IMoD and IAI engineers will continue pre-planned inspections before it begins full operational activity in the near future.

The “Ofek 13” satellite was developed based on the experience of the defense establishment and IAI in the production of earlier satellites in the “Ofek” series, which have been launched since 1988.

The IMoD’s Space and Satellite Administration has led the development and production of the satellite and its launcher. The development process also includes the IDF’s 9900 Intelligence Unit and the Israeli Air Force. IAI is the prime contractor for the development of the satellite, launcher, and ground station monitoring system. The System Missiles and Space Group led by the Space division operates the project alongside with ELTA, an IAI subsidiary, and the MLM division. The launch engines were developed by Rafael Advanced Systems and Tomer, a government-owned company.

Once the satellite is deemed fully operational, the Ministry of Defense will deliver it to the IDF’s 9900 Intelligence Unit for operational use.

Defense Minister Yoav Galant, who was present during the launch: “The successful launch of the satellite is yet another important example of the Israeli defense establishment’s groundbreaking innovation. Israel has already proved its diverse space capabilities many times and is one of very few countries to possess such capabilities – capabilities that we continue to develop and strengthen. Our proud accomplishment today is first and foremost thanks to our engineers’ creativity, talent and consistency in addition to the hard work of outstanding professionals that took part in this operation. We will continue to prove that even the sky isn’t the limit for the Israeli defense establishment and that we continue to enhance its capabilities in every dimension in the face of various challenges.”

Head of the DDR&D, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Daniel Gold: We launched a SAR satellite into space that is equipped with the utmost advanced abilities at the peak of global technology. The launch of “Ofek 13” has proven Israel’s superiority in the field of space yet again. It also constitutes a leap forward in operational and technological abilities for the preservation and improvement of Israel’s standing in space for the coming decades.”

Commander of Unit 9900, Brig. Gen. Erez Askal: “This successful launch is an important step for Israel’s defense establishment and for Unit 9900 specifically, and positions us as a regional and international space power. I would like to thank our partners in the space community; our work has only just begun. Our unit’s soldiers and commanders will continue to work around the clock to ensure the satellite’s successful operation and to provide a full operational intelligence picture.”

President and CEO of IAI, Boaz Levy: “The ‘Ofek 13’ satellite that was launched today is additional proof of IAI’s power as Israel’s space home and its significant contribution to the Israeli defense establishment. From now on, Israel will gain groundbreaking intelligence capabilities. The ‘Ofek 13’ is the most advanced of its kind with unique radar observation capabilities and will enable intelligence collection in any weather and conditions of visibility, thus enhancing strategic intelligence. The satellite is comprised of groundbreaking Israeli-made technologies and will join the IAI’s ‘Ofek’ series in space, that operate to strengthen the defense establishment’s intelligence superiority. The launch concludes a long and complex process of developing and building the satellite led by the brightest minds in IAI together with the Israel Ministry of Defense’s DDR&D and additional defense industries.”

Head of the IMOD’s Space and Satellite Administration, Avi Berger: “‘Ofek 13’ is a SAR satellite with the most advanced capabilities of its kind, entirely developed in Israel. The launch was successful, according to plan. Initial indications from the satellite are also very good. Within the coming weeks, we will complete technical tests and receive the first pictures before delivering the satellite for operational use by the IDF. ‘Ofek 13’ will join the additional Ofek satellites that the Ministry of Defense and the IDF have operated in space for many years. A SAR satellite will allow, among other things, day and nighttime imaging capabilities, and will drastically improve Israel’s intelligence capabilities from space for years to come.”

The new satellite joins a large number of Israel spy satlites carrying optical and radar payloads.



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