Israel Concerned About 'Behavior' Of Latest Spy Satellite Ofek 11

14 September 2016

Israel used its indigenous Shavit launcher on Tuesday to loft Ofek 11, its latest and most advanced spy satellite, into space, but program officials say they are concerned by its “behavior” and are unsure whether it will successfully fulfill its intended eight-year remote sensing mission.

“We made contact with the satellite, but its not yet clear that all is well,” Amnon Harari, director of the Defense Ministry’s Space Administration, told reporters here.

“We’re checking its systems, but it is not behaving as expected … there are parameters that are not behaving as we expected, and this worries us to some extent,” he said.

Program officials say it could take days to discern specific reasons for the undisclosed anomalies and to stabilize the situation.

Developed and produced by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, Ltd., the 370-kilogram Ofek 11 with its 70-centimeter high-resolution telescope by Elbit Systems Elop was launched late Tuesday afternoon from Palmachim Air Base south of Tel Aviv.

Like all previous spy satellites launched from Israel, Ofek 11 was launched westward, over the Mediterranean Sea, against Earth’s eastward rotation.

A Sept. 13 Defense Ministry statement noted that it entered into its planned retrograde low Earth orbit, and that government and IAI technicians are continuing a series of preplanned tests.

Tal Inbar of Israel’s Fisher Institute for Strategic Air and Space Studies noted that normally, the operational viability of remote sensing satellites is clear within hours of launch. “This is the first time that the situation of the satellite shortly after a successful launch is not clear, and this concerns us,” he told Defense News.

“There is still a chance to bring all the satellite systems to an operational state and that the satellite will perform as planned. But at the moment, it is unclear whether efforts being conducted by the ground crews will end up solving the problem,” Inbar said.

 Israel launched its last spy satellite – Ofek 10, with its synthetic aperture radar payload -- in April 2014. Within hours of that launch, the satellite had begun transmitting data and visual material to the government ground station at IAI’s MBT satellite production facility.

Latest troubles with Israel’s newest Ofek 11 satellite come on the heels of the launchpad loss earlier this month of an IAI-built communications satellite. That 5.4-ton satellite was planned for launch aboard a Space-X Falcon 9 rocket two days before it exploded on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.


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