Israel's Most Advanced Satellite, Ofek 10, Enters Orbit

The reconnaissance satellite, launched late Wednesday, will provide images for the Israel Defense Forces and other intelligence agencies.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Ofek 10's launch. April 9, 2014.
Ofek 10's launch. April 9, 2014.Credit: Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Israel launched its tenth satellite into space late Wednesday, the defense ministry announced. The satellite entered its orbit before dawn on Thursday.

The satellite, known as Ofek 10, is one of a group of reconnaissance satellites that gather information for military purposes.

According to the IDF's data, each satellite makes about 800 reconnaissance orbits a year for a total of 64,000 minutes annually.

The previous satellite, Ofek 9, was launched in June 2010. Ofek 10 is the seventh Israeli satellite currently in orbit.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the launch is "further testimony to Israel's impressive ability to develop and lead at the forefront of technology. Ofek 10 is meant to improve Israel's intelligence capabilities and allow the defense establishment to better deal with threats both close and far, all hours of the day and in all weather conditions. We continue to increase the vast qualitative and technological advantage over our neighbors."

Amnon Harari, head of the Defense Ministry's Space Administration said the satellite went through several years of development and production, and is currently working flawlessly. Ofek 10, weighing 330 kg, orbits the Earth at a height of between 400 and 600 km, according to the needs of the operators, and completes each orbit every 90 minutes.

"The satellite has exceptional photographic ability, but it is very small," said Ofer Doron, CEO of the Israel Aerospace Industries' Space Division. "It's designed to deliver very precise, high quality images under all conditions."

Apart from Israel, 11 other countries currently employ satellites: the U.S., Russia, China, France, Italy, Great Britain, South Korea, India, Japan, Ukraine and Iran. The relatively large number of satellites orbiting the Earth, some of which out of order, is troubling to experts.

"The Americans are tracking over 20,000 objects in space, and give alerts if necessary, because if satellites are hit a chain reaction will occur, and space will be so filled with debris it would be impossible to operate in."

Many in central Israel reported Wednesday they saw the trail the launch scorched across the sky. Contrary to other countries, Israel launches its satellites against the Earth's orbit. The satellite was launched at 22:15 using a Shavit launcher from a test site in central Israel.

The Israeli military industry developed the launcher's engines. According to the Israeli army, its satellites make some 800 image gathering salvos annually, for 64,000 minutes a year.

Computer simulation of Ofek 10 in spaceCredit: The Defense Ministry and the Israel Aerospace Industries

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