Israel on Wednesday evening launched a new spy satellite into orbit from an air force base in the center of the country. The spacecraft, the “Ofek-10,” will reportedly orbit the Earth every 99 minutes from an altitude of 600 kilometers (373 miles). The launch, from the Palmachim IAF base near Rishon Lezion, was visible throughout much of Israel’s center. According an Israel Radio report, much of air and sea traffic in the area was temporarily halted in order to facilitate the launch.
Upon entering orbit, “Ofek 10” will conduct a series of tests to verify that it is up to the excepted levels of performance.
“Ofek 10” is an observation radar-based satellite, with advanced photo capabilities in both day and night and in all weather conditions.
The satellite is capable of photographing objects the size of half a meter and it will circle the earth once every 99 minutes.
The last spy satellite that Israel launched into space was the “Ofek 9” and that launching took place in June of 2010. The “Ofek 10” is the sixth spy satellite operated by Israel and it can be very helpful in monitoring sites across the world.
Israeli media said the launch was from Palmachim, a base near the Mediterranean coast south of Tel Aviv and that the satellite showed signs of operating successfully minutes later.
Israel maintains an extensive spy satellite program, which has seen the Defense Ministry invest hundreds of millions of shekels a year in space development and the satellite industry.
Defense officials said the program significantly upgrades the nation’s strategic capabilities, and strengthens the hi-tech sector. The first Israeli military satellite, Ofek 1, went into space in 1988.
Israel is one of 12 countries able to produce and launch its own satellites.