The Ofek 9 spy satellite launched into space from Palmahim air base on Tuesday night began transmitting Wednesday morning, Army Radio reported.
The satellite was launched at around 10 p.m. Tuesday from the Palmahim air base along the Mediterranean coast. It was placed in low orbit by an Israel Aerospace Industries-manufactured Shavit booster rocket of the same type used for the Ofek 7 satellite in 2007.
Israel launches new spy satellite
In the face of Iran’s race to obtain nuclear weapons, Israel strengthened its foothold in space with the successful launch of the spy satellite, which defense officials said would provide the IDF with unprecedented operational capabilities and an extended reach.
Ofek 9 joins 5 other Israeli spy satellites already operational.
On the night of the launch, Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared,
"Today's launch brings us strategic technology. Few countries,
especially countries of a similar size to Israel, are capable of such a
complex achievement." He added, "The success of the launch is a symbol
of the prowess, intelligence and high capability of the individuals
involved in the defense industry and the defense establishment."
According to the defense industry, Ofek 9 is "made specifically for long
distances," including Iranian nuclear facilities.
The launch came as a great relief for the defense establishment, and
particularly for IAI, lead contractor of the Ofek project. In September
2004, Israel failed to launch the Ofek 6, which plummeted to the sea in
its third boost stage. Last week, South Korea failed to launch a
satellite, and a week earlier, India also failed.
While the new satellite will not represent a significant technological
breakthrough – it will carry a camera that’s a bit more advanced than
the one aboard the Ofek 7 – it will provide the IDF with greater
flexibility in utilizing its space assets.
Speaking to Army Radio Wednesday morning, Israel Air Force Chief of
Staff Brigadier General Nimrod Sefer expressed confidence and explained
that the satellite upgrades Israel's intelligence capabilities. "Anyone
watching us will surely have reason to fear us."