Quality of New Israeli Spy Satellite Photos Said 'Excellent'

Eros B satellite was launched Tuesday atop Russian rocket; began transmitting photos Friday.

Photographs sent over the weekend from a new Israeli spy satellite, placed in orbit to monitor Iranian nuclear developments and other key defense developments, were of "excellent" quality, according to the control room of the company which launched the Eros B satellite.

Eros B, launched on Tuesday from a Siberian missile base atop a Russian rocket, transmitted its first pictures to Earth on Friday.

ImageSat, citing the high quality of the photos, labelled the project a success. "We see people walking in streets [in the photos], not to mention cars traveling," said ImageSat CEO Shimon Eckhaus.

Objects 70 centimeters apart can be distinguished in the satellite pictures. Any closer, and they appear as unified objects. This indicates a marked improvement in satellite technology; the satellite launched by the company some five years ago could only distinguish between objects at least one and a half meters apart.

"The satellite can get a shot of any spot in the world, not just of nuclear reactors in Iran, but also of reactors in New Zealand. There's no place of which it cannot take a picture. Is there terror only in Iran? What about in Sudan? We also have a picture of an air force base in Sudan," said Eckhaus.

"In the age of world terror, global intelligence is a must, and that is what the satellite obtains. No other method gives intelligence from all over the world at once. The photos reach us minutes after they've been taken," he continued.

Noting plans to slash the defense budget, Eckhaus gave Eros B as a good example of ways in which the defense establishment can make use of private companies without investing tens of millions of dollars in developing its own satellite technology.

ImageSat was founded in 1997 and is owned by the Israel Aircraft Industries (which holds 42 percent of company shares), Elbit Systems (which ownes eight percent) and various other foreign investors. It owns and operates its satellites and derives its income from the sale of the images for both military and civilian uses.

Yitzhak Nissan, CEO of the Israel Aircraft Industries, said over the weekend, "This is an unprecedented technological achievement of the IAI, which, within 21 months, under stressful and crowded conditions, managed to launch an imaging satellite that takes excellent photos."

ImageSat is planning a Nasdaq debut at a company value of half a billion dollars within nine to 12 months. The investment bank UBS will handle the investment.

It is expected that the successful launch will raise the value of the company ahead of the public share offering.