On a late Monday morning, exactly 30 years ago, Israel’s first satellite was secretly boosted into orbit around the Earth from the Palmachim Airbase, located south of Tel Aviv.
This made Israel the eighth country to launch a satellite into orbit using its own launch vehicle.
The launch of Ofek I (Hebrew for horizon) marked Israel’s entry into the space age.
On Monday, the Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) unveiled for the first time, the video of the launch of Ofek I, as well as intelligence footage of the Ofek 11 – the newest Israeli observation satellite.
The mission to launch an Israeli satellite was motivated by the country’s will to improve its intelligence capabilities. Since then IAI has launched 24 satellites, which include communications, observation, and nano-satellites.
IAI was established in 1953, only five years after the establishment of the State of Israel and according to its internet site, “operated with the aim to contribute to the defense of the embattled new country against the neighboring Arab States and to meet the Israeli Air Force (IAF) needs”.
“Within a short period of time, we built a pure blue-white space industry with magnificent capabilities and achievements, which then and now can be reserved for a few countries around the world,” said Amnon Harari, Space Administration head in the Defense Ministry. “In the past 30 years, we have launched 24 satellite, it proves that it is a strategy of the State of Israel.
“Its capabilities in the field of satellites are a significant advantage in dealing with various security threats,” he explained.
According to Harari, the images produced by the latest satellites are of very high quality and prove that the “sky is not the limit.”
“Beyond the security needs, the space industry in Israel is an important component of economics, education, technological advancement, science, small companies, start-ups and more,” added Harari.
One of Israel’s latest space achievement is a lunar module that has been locally developed and built.
It will make Israel the fourth country in the world to conquer the moon, where it is expected to land next February.
The 5-meter tall, 2-meter wide (with its legs extended), 600-kilogram craft was jointly developed by IAI and the non-profit SpaceIL organization. It will be the smallest vehicle ever to land on the moon, as well as the most inexpensive, costing just NIS 320 million, all from private donations.
“Thanks to an organized program and to the best minds of the State of Israel, we succeed time after time to reach exceptional technological achievements,” said Boaz Levy, general manager, and IAI Systems Executive vice president. “The necessity of our geographical location led us to develop small, lightweight satellites that provide amazing quality images for the security of the State of Israel.
“The Israeli space program not only contribute to security but also to the economy. IAI is proud to lead Israel’s space activities and to break the boundaries of the earth time after time,” he concluded.
Written by Mara Vigevani/TPS | Photo by TPS