"Israel needs to develop an independent space program that emphasizes independent launch capabilities, as well as activating navigational systems and satellite communications," said Commander-in-Chief of the Israel Air Force, Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy on Tuesday.
Shkedy was speaking at a ceremony to mark the third anniversary
of the Columbia shuttle catastrophe, in which Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon perished with his entire crew.
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The air force chief also touched on the Iranian space program, saying the fact that Iran independently launched a satellite into space does not immediately threaten Israel.
He added, however, that the launch was an indication of the Iranian's ambitions, which obligates Israel to be alert.
Shkedy reiterated that despite Israel's strategic alliance with the United States, in the long run Israel should develop independent capabilities.
Iran launched a satellite into space from a site in Russia last October, and obtained Russian assistance for the launch, including the launch facilities.
In an official announcement, Iran said that the Russian-manufactured satellite, Sina 1, was intended for research and communications, but a month after its launch - and only weeks after the Iranian president said Israel should be wiped off the map - the head of Iran's space program now says the Sina-1 satellite is capable of spying on Israel.
Yiftah Shapir, editor of the Middle East Military Balance
at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, said that despite Iranian claims, the Sina-1 was too small to be effective, adding that Iran's claim that the Sina-1 satellite is capable of spying on Israel is more wishful thinking
than a strategic threat.
The Iranians have announced that they will launch two satellites. The second satellite, manufactured by Italy, will carry photographic equipment and is intended to be a spy satellite. Its development encountered technical difficulties.
There are only seven countries in the world, with Israel among them, which can manufacture their own satellites. Approximately 80 other countries, including Iran, have purchased satellites from the seven members of the "Space Club."
with Arieh O'Sullivan and AP