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Israel launches "Ofek 13" spy satellite

Ofek 13 will conduct reconnaissance of conflict areas in the West Asia

Shavit-2 takes off from Palmachim, an Israeli air base converted into a launch pad

The Israel Defense Forces and Israel Aerospace Industries launched the Ofek 13 satellite using a Shavit-2 rocket at 21:10 UTC/ 17:10 EDT on March 28, 2023 (02:10 Local time on March 29). was from the Palmachim Air Base, in the interior of the country. The satellite entered orbit, began transmitting data and completed an initial series of inspections in accordance with original plans. Once the satellite is declared operational, the Ministry of Defense will transfer it to the country's Defense Forces' 9900 intelligence unit. The project is managed by the Defense Space and Rocket Group together with ELTA, a subsidiary of IAI and a division of MLM. Israel was the eighth nation to have its own launch capability.

Ofek-13 (also spelled 'Ofeq', Hebrew for “horizon”), is an advanced radar surveillance satellite joining the other eleven satellites in the series, with the latest being launched in July 2020. this one was launched by an updated Shavit-2 rocket (whose engines were developed by Rafael Advanced Systems and by the state company Tomer), as well as the previous satellites. These low earth orbit satellites complete an orbit every 90 minutes. The development and production of the satellite and launch vehicle are managed by the Ministry of Defense through the Israel Defense Forces Space Administration. Several units of the Israel Defense Forces are involved in its development, including the intelligence department's unit 9900 and the Air Force." Both the satellite and launcher were designed and manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with the El-Op division of Elbit Systems building the optical payload. The IDF claims this "radar surveillance" craft has advanced features that allude to a TecSAR-class Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) collector.

The commander of Unit 9900, Brigadier General Erez Askal, said that “…this successful launch is an important step towards the establishment of Israeli defense and for our unit in particular, and positions us as a regional and international space power. I would like to thank our partners in the space community; our work has just begun. Our unit soldiers and commanders will work around the clock to ensure the successful operation of the satellite and provide a complete picture of operational intelligence.”

IAI President and CEO Boaz Levy said: “…the Ofek-13, launched today, is further proof of IAI's strength as Israel's space center and the Group's significant contribution to defense capability. From now on, Israel will receive advanced intelligence capabilities. Ofek 13 is the most advanced satellite of its kind with unique radar surveillance capabilities. This will enable the collection of information in all weather and visibility conditions, thus improving the quality of our strategic intelligence. The satellite is based on innovative Israeli technologies and will join the constellation created by our company.

Avi Berger, director of satellites at the Department of Defense, said: “… Ofek-13 is the most advanced radar satellite of its kind, fully developed in Israel. The launch was successful and the initial readings from the satellites are also very good. In the coming weeks, we will complete the technical tests and receive the first images before delivering the satellite for operational use by the army.


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