Satellite Launch Bolsters Ability to Spy on Tehran

Israeli TECSAR satellite, launched from India, allows intelligence gathering even through dense clouds.

Israel launched early Monday a sophisticated new spy satellite, designated TECSAR, which could boost intelligence gathering capabilities regarding Iran.

The satellite was sent into orbit from the Sriharikota Launching Range in India, using an Indian rocket.

The TECSAR, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has the ability to use radar to identify targets even under adverse weather conditions including dense clouds.

As such, it differs from Israel's Ofek series of reconnaissance satellites, which rely on cameras.

IAI officials said that the satellite, which weighs some 300 kilograms, was launched at 5:45 A.M. Israel time, and was successfully placed in orbit. IAI ground stations reported receiving signals at 7:10 A.M. showing that all measuring parameters were operating correctly.

Scientists and engineers are now conducting a battery of tests to check the systems and gauge their performance. A first picture from the satellite is expected within two weeks.

The TECSAR launch was postponed a number of times in the past, largely due to weather conditions.

Israel currently operates a number of reconnaissance satellites, including Ofek 5 and Ofek 7, as well as several commercial satellites such as the Amos and EROS series. A total of 11 Israeli satellites have been placed in orbit, a number of them still operational.

The Ofek 5 was launched in May, 2002, and the Ofek 7, last July, from the Palmachim missile range on Israel's coast.

Israel intends to launch another two spy satellites as part of its strategic cooperation commitments