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Israeli space capabilities will take a giant leap in September when the Defense Ministry launches its most advanced spy satellite aboard an Indian rocket. The new satellite is capable of transmitting tiny images in all weather conditions.
Following last month's successful launch of the Ofek 7 spy satellite, Israel is making final arrangements to launch the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-developed TecSar. It will be the first Israeli satellite with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capabilities, and will monitor developments at Iran's nuclear installations.
The TecSar weighs just under 300 kilograms. It was developed by the IAI's Space Division MBT and can create images of objects on earth even in cloudy weather conditions, a capability not available with the Ofek satellites.
The Ofek 7 is a camera-based satellite, while TecSar is capable of creating high-resolution images using advanced radar technology. The SAR technology was developed by IAI's subsidiary Elta.
"This new satellite will be a major leap for the IDF and its operational capabilities," a senior defense official said Thursday. "This will enhance our intelligence gathering capabilities, and its successful launch will place Israel as one of the leading countries in the world in satellite development."
This will be the first time Israel will launch a satellite aboard an Indian rocket. The launch is scheduled for as early as the beginning of September.
The decision to launch the missile from India was reached three years ago during a visit there by then-Defense Ministry director-general Amos Yaron. The liftoff will be from the Indian space center at Sriharikota.
Defense officials hailed the decision to launch the satellite from India as an important milestone symbolizing the growing military ties between the two countries. They said the TecSar would be more advanced than the Eros B satellite, which Israel launched in April 2006 and has the ability to spot images on the ground as small as 70 centimeters.
In addition to the Ofek 7, Eros B and the Amos 1 and 2 (both communication satellites), Israel currently operates the Ofek 5 spy satellite, successfully launched in May 2002. IAI plans to launch the Amos 3 in the coming months.
Last week, Indian newspapers reported that Israel and India had agreed to expand cooperation on developing a long-range version of the Barak antimissile defense system. Known as the Barak 8, the system is being promoted by IAI as more advanced and sophisticated than Lockheed Martin's PAC-3. The deal was worth $1.3 billion, defense officials said.