Israel launches Ofek 16 reconnaissance satellite into orbit

Israel has successfully launched a new reconnaissance satellite into orbit, the latest in a series of spy satellites for the country that date back to 1988. 

The Ofek 16 satellite lifted off at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT) on Sunday, July 5. It was 4 a.m. local time in Israel, Monday, July 6, at launch time. The satellite reached orbit atop a Shavit 2 rocket that flew from the Palmachim air base in central Israel, according to a statement from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

"The successful launch of the 'Ofek 16' satellite overnight is yet another extraordinary achievement for the defense establishment, for the defense industries as a whole, and for Israel Aerospace Industries in particular," Benny Gantz, Israel's Defense Minister, said in the statement. 

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The satellite successfully reached  orbit around Earth and began to transmit data, IAI reported.. The launch of the Ofek 16 satellite was a joint collaboration between IAI, the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMoD), and the Space Administration in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development. 

Next, IAI and the IMoD will test the satellite's initial performance in orbit before transferring responsibility to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to carry out the satellite's operational activities, according to the statement.

"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 said in the statement. "We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel's capabilities on every front, in every place."

The Israel reconnaissance satellite Ofek 16 is seen before liftoff. (Image credit: Israel Ministry of Defense)

Ofek 16 is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced imaging capabilities. IAI was the primary contractor for the spacecraft and launch vehicle. However, the satellite's advanced camera and payload were developed by Israeli contractors Elbit Systems, and the launch engines were produced by a government-owned company called Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Tomer, according to the statement. 

The Ofek 16 spacecraft is the latest in a series of military-operated spy satellites launched by Israel since 1988. It is the first satellite to launch aboard an Israeli rocket since September 2016, according to SpaceflightNow.  

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.