Ofek-16 Satellite Starts Beaming Back Images from Orbit

The milestone followed pre-planned tests during which all of the satellite’s systems and subsystems were gradually activated  

The rocket carrying the Ofek-16 satellite lifts off on July 6. Photo: IAI

One week after the successful launch of the Ofek 16 satellite into space, engineering teams from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Ministry of Defense have operated the satellite’s observation camera for the first time. The high-quality images were received overnight at an IAI control station in the city of Yehud in central Israel.

Since the launch on June 6, teams from IAI and the ministry have conducted a series of pre-planned tests during which all of the satellite’s systems and subsystems were activated in a gradual and controlled manner. Upon completion of the process, the satellite’s camera was also activated successfully. In the coming weeks, engineering teams will complete the rigorous tests, and prepare the satellite for operational use.

The head of the Space and Satellite Administration in the Ministry of Defense, Amnon Harari, said "This is the most significant milestone since the launch of the Ofek 16 satellite. The images we received from the satellite are of excellent quality. We will continue the orderly process of transferring the satellite to operational use, anticipating that over the years, the system will provide great intelligence to the defense establishment.”

Boaz Levy, IAI EVP and General Manager of the Systems, Missiles and Space Group, commented "This is a landmark achievement – the result of a complex technological and operational process that reflects IAI’s capabilities in the field of space, and also highlights our partnership with other defense industries. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, IAI will continue to advance Israel’s space program towards further operational achievements. "

The Ofek 16 satellite is an electro-optical observation satellite with advanced capabilities. It is equipped with a high-quality camera developed and manufactured by Elbit Systems. In the coming weeks, following the completion of the ‘in orbit testing’ process conducted by the Defense Ministry's Directorate of Defense Research and Development, IAI and the IDF, the ministry will transfer responsibilities to Unit 9900 of the IDF’s Intelligence Cops, after which the satellite will be declared operational. 

The Space Administration in the Ministry of Defense 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. The satellite’s payload was developed by Elbit Systems. The launch engines were developed by Rafael Advanced Systems and Tomer, a government-owned defense company. Additional companies have participated in this program, including Rokar and Cielo. Various IDF officials, primarily from the Intelligence Corps and Air Force, have also been deeply involved in the satellite development process.