Israel Suspects System Trouble With Newly Launched Spy Satellite

'There are a number of things that worry us,' the Defense Ministry's aerospace chief says hours after the Ofek 11 was launched into space at an air base south of Tel Aviv.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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The Ofek 11 satellite launch in the Palmachim air base, September 13, 2016.
The Ofek 11 satellite launch in the Palmachim air base, September 13, 2016.Credit: Defense Ministry
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Defense Ministry is examining whether systems on the Ofek 11 spy satellite launched into space on Tuesday are working properly, officials said.

Amnon Harari, the ministry's director of aerospace said "there are a number of things that worry us," but that it would take some days to determine whether the launch was successful.

After the satellite was sent into orbit and as it flew over Israel, readings were received that may indicate problems, officials said.

Ofer Doron, aerospace chief for the Israel Aircraft Industries, said "there are a few matters that don't seem routine, but the process of diagnosing the satellite's situation is continuing."

The Ofek 11 was launched from the Palmahim air base, south of Tel Aviv, at 5:30 P.M. as surveillance aircraft patrolled the nearby Mediterrean skies.

Israel prefers to launch its satellites against the Earth’s rotation, toward the sea, and not in an easterly direction as other countries do.

The defense establishment gleans intelligence from about 10 satellites, including Ofek satellites made by IAI, and commercial satellites which produce images for the Israel Defense Forces and other intelligence agencies.

The Israel Defense Forces said that these satellites make about 800 photography sorties annually, filming 64,000 minutes worth of footage each year.

The satellite's predecessor, Ofek 10, was launched in 2014, and the Ofek 9 was sent up in 2010.

Two weeks ago Israel lost its latest civilian satellite ahead of its launch when the launcher for the AMOS 6 blew up in Florida.

IAI chief executive Yossi Weiss has accused Israel of lacking a long range satellite program.

“The State of Israel isn’t looking at what’s going on around it. It invests smaller sums than what’s happening in the world, and it’s far from where it should be. We are marching in place,” Weiss said .

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