Israel has launched its Ofek 16 reconnaissance satellite into low Earth orbit, marking the latest addition to a fleet deployed over the past 20 years.

For the satellite, Elbit Systems supplied its Jupiter Space camera, Israel Aerospace Industries built the launcher through its Systems, Missiles and Space Group and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems worked on the propulsion, fuelling and other elements.

Other firms, including Rokar and Cielo, worked on the development with the ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development.

The launch of the small electro-optical satellite was conducted from the Palmachim airbase on Israel’s coast despite the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Israeli Government and Israel Aerospace Industries conducted the launch with the help of a Shavit-2 rocket.

Ofek 16 will capture high-resolution images of the Earth for the Ministry of Defence.

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Israel Defense Ministry’s Space Administration led the development of the satellite as well as its launcher.

The Ministry of Defense said that the satellite is expected to provide technological superiority and intelligence capabilities that are essential to the country. It will also improve the security of the region.

Following conclusion of initial tests, the satellite will be considered operational. It will deliver images to the Israel Defense Forces’ 9900 Intelligence Unit.

The spy satellite is part of a series of Israeli satellites initially launched in 1988 and designed to provide total control to the country over its own defence and space needs.

It is also similar to the advanced-generation Ofek 11 that was launched in 2016.

The satellite’s multi-spectral, high-resolution Jupiter Space camera delivered by Elbit is 1.5m long, weighs 120kg and has a 700mm aperture.

Israel has two actively commercial satellites and expects to launch five other active observation satellites.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Defense News that the launch is ‘an extraordinary achievement for the defence establishment, for the defence industries as a whole and for Israel Aerospace Industries in particular’.