A new Israeli spy satellite entered orbit early Thursday, the Defense Ministry said, boosting the Jewish state’s ability to monitor arch-foe Iran.
The observation remote-sensing Ofek 10 satellite, launched into space on a Shavit rocket late Wednesday in cooperation with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, outdoes earlier models with its ability to “skip” from one target to another rather than simply “sweep” areas, ministry officials told reporters.
The satellite has already begun transmitting data and visual material. It is expected to be operational within months. It is a lightweight satellite that is expected to improve Israel’s reconnaissance abilities by providing sharp images at any time of day, and in any weather condition, said Ofer Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries.
“It has an incredible imaging capability…to give very precise photos,” said Doron.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon noted Ofek 10 would “enable the security establishment to better deal with threats near and far, at all hours of the day and in any weather.”
“We are continuing to strengthen our tremendous qualitative and technological advantage over our neighbors,” Yaalon added.
Unlike other countries that launch satellites eastward in the direction of the earth’s orbit, Israel launched the satellite westward, opposite the direction of the earth’s orbit, to prevent debris following the launch to land in enemy countries east of Israel, said Doron. The satellite completes a full orbit around the earth every 90 minutes, said Doron.
Israel, the region’s sole if undeclared nuclear power, suspects Iran is covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program, charges adamantly denied by Tehran.
Ofek 10 joins a number of spy satellites Israel has been deploying since 1988, with the most recent — Ofek 9 — launched into space in 2010.