The Israeli Defense Ministry reported on July 6 that it launched the Ofek 16 satellite produced under the Ofek (Horizon) Spy Satellite Program. Soon after the launch, it was declared that the satellite reached its orbit and data communication was provided.
Israel’s Ministry of Defense said, “The satellite successfully reached orbit around Earth and began to transmit data.”
“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”, said Benny Gantz, Israel’s Defense Minister.
The launch was not made public. After a while, it was announced by the Israel Defense Ministry. Ofek 16 reached the orbit atop Shavit-2 (Shavit> Comet), an electro-optic reconnaissance / surveillance satellite that which was created from Jericho ballistic missile design, developed in 1982 with IAI and the France-centered Dassault Aviation. While IAI was the main contractor, Elbit Systems and Rafael companies also contributed to the production. Shavit-2 carried out its first launch mission in 1988 with the Ofek 1 satellite.
Ofek satellites were also developed and produced by IAI. Elbit Systems also took part in the production of payload for the satellite.
The last known launch under the program took place in 2016 with Ofek 11 satellite. There was no publicly known launch of Ofek 12, 13, 14 and 15. It can be claimed that the launches have not yet taken place.
— Israel Aerospace Industries (@ILAerospaceIAI) July 7, 2020
The satellite was launched from the Palmachim Base on the coast of Tel Aviv, Israel’s only coastline, atop Shavit-2 rocket. Normally, launches take place in the same direction as the Earth’s direction of rotation in order to take advantage of the Earth’s rotation speed. But launches from the Palmachim Base follow an orbit that is known as a retrograde orbit moving in the opposite of the Earth’s rotational direction. In other words, a launch in the west direction has a velocity component in the east direction. This in turn adds to the amount of fuel to be used in the mission.
As a result, the 3-phase and solid-fueled Shavit-2 rocket rises over the Mediterranean. In this way, the parts of the rocket fall on the Mediterranean, not on the territory of countries that do not have good relations with Israel.
“The success of the Ofek 16 satellite greatly increases our capabilities to work against Israeli enemies, close enemies and distant enemies alike. It greatly expands our capabilities to operate at sea, land, air and space.” tweeted the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.