JERUSALEM, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Israel successfully launched on Monday a new spy satellite, improving the country's surveillance ability in the region, the Israeli Defense Ministry said.
Photo: Israel Defense Ministry
The satellite, named "Ofek-16," was launched at 4:00 a.m. (0100 GMT) from a launch site in central Israel, using an Israeli "Shavit" launcher.
"The satellite began to orbit around earth and to transmit data in accordance with original launch plans," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Engineers with the ministry and the Israel Aerospace Industries have started a series of pre-planned tests to determine the propriety and performance level of Ofek-16 before it begins its full operational activities, the ministry said.
Joining a series of satellites launched over the past two decades, Ofek-16 is an electro-optical surveillance satellite with advanced capabilities. Its development and production were led by the Space Administration of the Defense Ministry.
Israeli officials believe that Ofek-16 gives the country an additional means to collect information on regional threats.
"Ofek-16 will enable us to keep an eye on threats in the Middle East and a little bit beyond it," Amnon Harari, the head of the ministry's Space and Satellite Administration, told the Hebrew-language Ma'ariv newspaper.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement that "technological superiority and intelligence capabilities are essential to the security of the state of Israel," adding that Israel will continue "to strengthen and maintain its capabilities on every front, in every place."