Iran delayed satellite launch

'Post' learns Teheran applied pressure through Indian opposition, fearing Israeli satellite's potential.

TecSar satellite 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
TecSar satellite 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The successful launch on Monday of an advanced Israeli satellite was delayed in recent months by Iranian sabotage, The Jerusalem Post has learned from Western sources. The TecSar satellite - developed and manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) - was supposed to be launched in September, on the heels of the June launch of the Ofek-7 spy satellite. Its deployment will dramatically increase Israel's intelligence-gathering capabilities regarding the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, since the satellite can transmit images in all weather conditions, a capability that Israel's existing satellites lacked. According to assessments recently received, Iran learned of the TecSar's planned deployment from the media and has since applied heavy pressure through Indian opposition parties - particularly the Muslim and Communist political factions - to prevent the launch. Teheran's attempts to sabotage the operation may demonstrate concerns over Israel's advancing intelligence capabilities. "The Iranians are scared of the potential this new satellite will bring Israel," a Western defense official had said earlier. "They are doing everything they can to prevent its launch." Despite the reported Iranian opposition, last month the Indian government conveyed a message to the Defense Ministry in Jerusalem confirming that it would launch the TecSar. On Monday morning the satellite lifted off atop an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle [PSLV] from the satellite launch pad in Sriharikata. "The TECSAR is the first satellite of its kind developed in Israel, and ranks among the world's most advanced space systems," the IAI said in a statement. The development and launching of the satellite cost tens of millions of dollars; within two weeks it will begin transmitting images to an IAI ground station in Yehud. 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 and is part of growing Indian-Israeli cooperation, which is scheduled to lead to the launch of two more satellites. Weighing just under 300 kg, the TecSar was developed by the Israel Aerospace Industries's Space Division MBT and has the ability to create images of objects on Earth in cloudy weather conditions and can see through certain rooftops that are not made of concrete. The Ofek 7 satellite, launched in June, is a camera-based satellite, while TecSar can create high-resolution images using advanced radar technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Officials said that once in space, the TecSar would be by far the most advanced Israeli satellite. 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. The decision to launch the satellite from India was made by the defense establishment due to technical difficulties expected to arise from a launch from Israel. Israel maintains the Shavit 1 launcher to deploy its satellites in space. In Israel, satellites are launched against the rotation of the Earth, which causes higher levels of friction when leaving the atmosphere and entering space. In addition, there was a concern that if the liftoff failed in Israel it would weaken the country's deterrence in the face of enemy countries such as Iran.