Israel Launched the Ofek-16 Spy Satellite

The Space Administration in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), of the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMoD), and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), have successfully launched the Ofek-16 reconnaissance satellite into space, today (06.07.2020) at 4:00 AM. The launch was performed from a launch site based in central Israel, using a “Shavit” launcher.

The satellite began to orbit around earth and to transmit data, in accordance with original launch plans. IMoD and IAI engineers have started a series of pre-planned tests to determine the propriety and performance level of the satellite before it begins its full operational activities.

Ofek-16 is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite, based on the experience gained by the production of earlier satellites in the Ofek series, which have been produced and launched since 1988. The satellite was launched into space using the Shavit launcher. Once the satellite is deemed fully operational, the Ministry of Defense will deliver responsibilities to the IDF’s ‘9900’ Intelligence Unit.

Israel’s Three-stage Satellite Launcher

The Shavit launcher is a three-stage satellite launcher, powered by three solid fuel rocket motors with lift capability of approximately 380Kg . The first two stages lift the launcher to an altitude of about 110 km. From this point, the launcher continues to gain height while coasting, positioning itself and ejecting the satellite shroud. Than the third stage motor inserts the satellite into orbit at an altitude of approximately 250 km.

Ofeq-16 satellite ready for integration on top of the Shavit launcher
Ofeq-16 satellite ready for integration on top of the Shavit launcher

While Ofeq’s payload is still unknown, Elbit had provided space cameras for many projects, including former Ofeq satellites. Its high resolution Jupiter imaging system was launched on board the Italian Ministry of Defense satellite OPTSAT 3000. The Jupiter space camera provides spatial resolutions of 0.5 meter resolution from an altitude of 600 km. It contains high resolution panchromatic imaging and has the capability of adding a multi-spectral channel.

IAI is the prime contractor, having assigned the program to its Systems, Missiles and Space Group together with the MLM Division, which is responsible for the development of the launcher. Elbit Systems is responsible for the development and production of the satellite’s advanced camera and payload. The launch engines were developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Tomer, a government-owned company. Additional companies have participated in the program, including Rokar and Cielo.