The Israel Aerospace Industries launched on Monday a new reconnaissance satellite, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “Ofek 16,” which Israel said would provide high-quality surveillance for its military intelligence, took off at 4 A.M. from a base in central Israel, and has begun its orbit around Earth.
According to the Israel Aerospace Industries, “Ofek 16” is an “electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities.” It was launched into space using the locally-developed "Shavit" launcher, which was used to launch previous Ofek satellites.
Following the lanuch, it has undergone a series of tests to determine its propriety and performance level, before it began transmitting data.
The first images will be received in about a week.
Israel has been building up its surveillance capabilities to monitor enemies such as Iran, whose nuclear program it sees as a major threat.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz dubbed the launch “yet another extraordinary achievement for the defense establishment,” adding: “Technological superiority and intelligence capabilities are essential to the security of the State of Israel.”
“The fact that Israel is one of the 13 countries in the world with satellite launching capabilities is not a given, and was made possible by the people who have been investing in these systems and advancing breakthrough capabilities over the years,” Gantz added.
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“We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel's capabilities on every front, in every place.”
State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries was the main contractor for the project and the satellite's payload was developed by defense firm Elbit Systems.
Reuters contributed to this report.