Israel’s Ofek-16 satellite launch: Documents and video

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

Israel’s Space Administration in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), of the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMoD), and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), have successfully launched the “Ofek 16” reconnaissance satellite into space on July 6, 2020.

The IAI Press Release

The launch was performed from a launch site based in central Israel, using a “Shavit” launcher.

The satellite began to orbit around earth and to transmit data, in accordance with original launch plans. IMoD and IAI engineers have started a series of pre-planned tests to determine the propriety and performance level of the satellite before it begins its full operational activities.

Defense Minister, Benny Gantz: “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. 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. We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel’s capabilities on every front, in every place”.

“Ofek 16” is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities. Its development was enabled by the great experience gained by the defense establishment in the production of earlier satellites in the Ofek series, which have been produced and launched since the year 1988. The satellite was launched into space using the “Shavit” launcher.

The Space Administration in IMoD has led the development and production of the satellite and its launcher. IAI is the prime contractor, having assigned the program to its Systems, Missiles and Space Group together with the MLM Division, which is responsible for the development of the launcher. Elbit Systems is responsible for the development and production of the satellite’s advanced camera and payload. The launch engines were developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Tomer, a government-owned company. Additional companies have participated in the program, including Rokar and Cielo.

The Director of Security for the Defense Establishment oversaw the security arrangements of the program. Lastly, various IDF officials, primarily from the Intelligence Corps and Air Force have also been deeply involved in the satellite development process. Once the satellite is deemed fully operational, the Ministry of Defense will deliver responsibilities to the IDF’s ‘9900’ Intelligence Unit.

The Israel Ministry of Defense statements

4am Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Statement: The Israel Ministry of Defense and Israel Aerospace Industries have recently launched the “Ofek 16” satellite. Additional details will follow.

Israel Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Statement: The Israel Ministry of Defense and Israel Aerospace Industries Have Successfully Launched the Ofek 16 Satellite – Which Has Begun its Orbit in Space Defense Minister, Benny Gantz: “This is another extraordinary achievement for the defense establishment, for the defense industries as a whole, and for Israel Aerospace Industries in particular.” The Space Administration in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), of the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMoD), and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), have successfully launched the “Ofek 16” reconnaissance satellite into space, today (06.07.2020) at 4:00 AM. The launch was performed from a launch site based in central Israel, using a “Shavit” launcher.

The satellite began to orbit around earth and to transmit data, in accordance with original launch plans. IMoD and IAI engineers have started a series of pre-planned tests to determine the propriety and performance level of the satellite before it begins its full operational activities.

Defense Minister, Benny Gantz:

“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. 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. We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel’s capabilities on every front, in every place.”

“Ofek 16” is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities. Its development was enabled by the great experience gained by the defense establishment in the production of earlier satellites in the Ofek series, which have been produced and launched since the year 1988. The satellite was launched into space using the “Shavit” launcher.

The Space Administration in IMoD has led the development and production of the satellite and its launcher. IAI is the prime contractor, having assigned the program to its Systems, Missiles and Space Group together with the MLM Division, which is responsible for the development of the launcher. Elbit Systems is responsible for the development and production of the satellite’s advanced camera and payload. The launch engines were developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Tomer, a government-owned company. Additional companies have participated in the program, including Rokar and Cielo.

The Director of Security for the Defense Establishment oversaw the security arrangements of the program. Lastly, various IDF officials, primarily from the Intelligence Corps and Air Force have also been deeply involved in the satellite development process. Once the satellite is deemed fully operational, the Ministry of Defense will deliver responsibilities to the IDF’s ‘9900’ Intelligence Unit.

Background information from Israel Ministry of Defense.

The Space Program of the Israel Ministry of Defense: Over 30 Years of “Defense in Space” The Israel Ministry of Defense invests hundreds of millions of shekels every year in developing the space and satellite industries. The multi-year space program led by the Israel Ministry of Defense advances the strategic capabilities of the State of Israel, while strengthening Israeli high-tech and creating vast job opportunities.

The first Israeli satellite (Ofek 1), was launched in the year 1988. In the years following this success, the Ministry of Defense has allocated significant budgets in the field of satellite development.

The satellite program significantly enhances the intelligence capabilities of the State of Israel, due to the groundbreaking technology and capabilities developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and additional partner industries. The satellite industry in Israel and around the world, fuels the production of new, advanced technology. Investment in this field produces first and foremost, strategic defense systems, but also technological innovation and solutions that assist industries in coping with various technological obstacles. This is because technology in the field of satellites must constantly push boundaries – combining advanced programing, algorithms, engineering, and systems that must persevere in the challenging conditions that space launches and space operations include (issues surrounding durability, strength versus weight, and more).

The State of Israel was the seventh country in the world to achieve full space capabilities (launching satellites), and today, Israel is one of 13 countries in the world with such capabilities, alongside the United States, Italy, France, Japan, India, the U.K., Ukraine, China, Russia, Iran, North and South Korea.

The investment of the State of Israel in space technology is considered essential and strategic for intelligence purposes. This is a multi-year investment, which requires a multitude of resources, consistency, and professionalism. The goal is to ensure that the Israeli satellite program will remain at the forefront of technological capabilities and will continue to produce advanced satellites, which will maintain Israel’s intelligence and technological superiority.

The investment of the Ministry of Defense in the field of space technology contributes to the advanced capabilities of the State of Israel.  At the same time, it also contributes to the integration of advanced technology and capabilities in civilian industries and the high-tech sector

Head of the Space and Satellite Administration in the Israel Ministry of Defense, Amnon Harari and with IAI Space Division GM, Shlomi Sudri gave statements.

Head of Space Administration at the Defense Ministry, Amnon Harari:

“This morning we launched the ‘Ofek 16’ observation satellite at 4:00 this morning, an optical observation satellite similar to the previous 11 horizon. The launch was very eloquent, I say that with a lot of pride. Both in terms of the satellite’s revenue into orbit and the first indications we have of the satellite itself , When he first passed us about two hours ago. This satellite joins the Horizon Ofek (Horizon) series, which the Ministry of Defense and the IDF have been operating for years. It is ideal that the satellites stay in space 24/7, and if there are several such satellites you can get a very good indication of the threats and their swelling. ”

IAI Aerospace Industry Manager, Shlomi Sodri: “Ofek 16 is an advanced electro-optical observation satellite of its kind. It incorporates breakthrough blue-and-white technologies that enable us to enhance our strategic intelligence capabilities, as a state. This satellite joins another of the Ofek series satellites that are already in space, and together with these satellites it is actually enhancing the ability IDF Intelligence Division. The last combinations of this satellite were at the peak of the Corona. At the height of the closure we did the latest satellite tests and assemblies. This mission was defined as a strategic priority by the aerospace industry, so we continued to work on these combinations and complete the ground tests, before moving the satellite to the Air Force Base in the center of the country. The highlight of the mission was tonight, we completed a countdown process that takes several hours, during which we do very detailed checks for all the components of the satellite and the dispatcher. At the end of this process the comet launches with a horizon of 16 taken off into space. The launch mission was very successfully completed, that is – the satellite was placed in orbit and it is now circling the earth and even transmitted proper broadcasts as it passed over the ground station in the aerospace industry. At the moment, as we have planned, we are entering a series of individual tests before handing over this satellite for operational use of the security system.”

Jerusalem Post: Amnon Harari, head of the Defense Ministry’s Space and Satellite Administration, said the satellite will monitor threats facing Israel. Iran’s space program is “a threat that we have to monitor” despite the failures they’ve had in recent years, Harari said. “Iran is investing a lot into building its space power and program,” he said. “The effort is there and we should assume that eventually, they will reach a significant level in this area. Although to achieve technology like Ofek 16 will take a long time, it’s a threat we have to monitor.” The satellite, which sends engineers messages of proper functioning, will join other satellites already keeping tabs on Iran and other adversaries. While Ofek 16 is similar to Ofek 11 in terms of capabilities, there have been precise improvements that will give maximum operational output.

Rafael’s role:

1. Third stage propulsion for launcher, which puts satellite into orbit
2. The thrusters for the launcher’s Reaction Control System
3. Full hydrazine propulsion system for the satellite
4. Payload structure, made of Unique composite materials
5. Complete launch site fueling  of both launcher and satellite

Elbit’s role:

 The Jupiter Space camera is a 1.5 meter long, 120 kg device with a 700mm aperture.

Jupiter is multi-spectral providing high-resolution imaging of 50 cm from an altitude of 600km. Jupiter can photograph 15 sqm on each shot

Other sources:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs background. In 2008 “At present there are five earth observation active satellites in orbit: EROS A – operating as a commercial venture supplying imagery to the international market. To be followed by OFEQ 5, EROS B, OFEQ 7, (the second generation of Electro-Optical Remote-Sensing satellites), TecSAR – Launched in 2007, employing a state-of-theart Synthetic-Aperture-Radar payload. It will enable night images and penetration through clouds. In the coming years (under development and construction) the next generation of satellites will include: OPTSAT – 3rd a new generation of high-resolution Electro-Optical remote-sensing satellites. VENUS – A Joint Israel/France Multi-spectral Mission, to monitor vegetation and coasts (water quality). Partners: ISA – Israel Space Agency and CNES the space agency of France.”

2008

Israel’s TecSar satellite, launched last week from India, began transmitting pictures to its ground control center in Yehud on Thursday…. According to Azerbaijani military experts, this is an indispensable system for … TecSAR is the first Israeli satellite to feature Synthetic Aperture Radar.

2012

Foreign Policy: The burgeoning IsraelAzerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint … imports are ubiquitous,” an Israeli reporter wrote in the Jerusalem Post. … Azerbaijan in building the TecSar reconnaissance satellite system

2016 loss of Amos satellite Defense News: “Thursday’s loss of the Israeli-built Amos-6 communications satellite in a launch pad explosion at Cape Canaveral marked a strategic setback, but also opportunities, for the Israeli space industry, whose follow-on orders were threatened by the planned sale of Spacecom, the Tel Aviv-based satellite operator, to a Beijing conglomerate. Spacecom’s Amos-6, an estimated $200 million satellite built by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), was deemed a total loss after the Space-X Falcon 9 launcher to which it was attached blew up during a static engine test. In its report to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Spacecom said the “anomaly” would have “substantial influence” on the company.”

2007 Space News

MoD,  IAI and defense and security officials here are anxiously awaiting the launch of Ofeq-7, whose successful deployment in low Earth orbit is considered “strategically essential,” according to one Israeli general. In a June 5 interview, the general said Israel requires “robust coverage” over high-priority areas that the country now lacks, given the failed September 2004 launch of Ofeq-6. “This nation has only one operational orbiting platform that meets our requirements, and it’s already well into old age,” he said, in reference to Ofeq-5, launched in May 2002. As a result of the Ofeq-6 failure, MoD has become increasingly reliant on ImageSat International’s dual-use ErosA spacecraft – a clone of the Ofeq-3 – and the more advanced Eros-B satellites, launched in 2000 and 2006 respectively. Tal Inbar, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, said a failure of the upcoming Ofeq-7 launch would seriously harm national security in two specific ways.

2018

To mark anniversary of the Ofek 1’s deployment, Defense Ministry also releases photos of Syria taken by its newest spy satellite.

Feb. 2020

Gunter’s Space Page: The expected lifespan of the EROS C is ten years. Launch was originally anticipated for 2008, but has been postponed several times to 2019. It appears to have been cancelled in favor of the EROS-NG constellation.

April 2020

On April 22, 2020, Iran successfully launched its first military satellite Noor-1 (“light”) into low-earth orbit and simultaneously announced its parallel military space program run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Corps (IRGC).

 

 

 

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