Israel launches spy satellite on its own rocket

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By Richard Tribou Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

Israel can send satellites into space too, and this time didn’t need an assist from SpaceX.

Israel Aerospace Industries announced it successfully launched the Ofek 16 satellite for the Israel Ministry of Defense using its “Shavit” rocket from launch site in central Israel.

Last August, an Israeli communications satellite launched from Cape Canaveral on board a SpaceX Falcon 9. But Israel has been able to launch its own satellites with its Shavit rockets since 1982, although unlike most rockets, it launches from east to west, so they fly out over the Mediterranean and also away from Israel’s unfriendlier neighboring countries. Shavit in Hebrew can mean comet or shooting star.

“The fact that Israel is one of the 13 countries in the world with satellite launching capabilities is not a given and was made possible by the people who have been investing in these systems and advancing breakthrough capabilities over the years,” said Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz in a press release. “We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel’s capabilities on every front, in every place.”

Ofek 16 is a reconnaissance satellite run by the Space Administration in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development, and the latest in a series of Ofek satellites launched by the nation. After its Monday launch, the satellite began its earth orbit and has begun transmitting data, according to a press release. Now the satellite will undergo tests to ensure everything is working properly before beginning its planned mission.

Once fully operational, Ofek 16 will handed over to Israel Defense Force’s “9900” Intelligence Unit.

“This is another extraordinary achievement for the defense establishment, for the defense industries as a whole, and for Israel Aerospace Industries in particular,” said Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz in a press release.

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