Israel’s space sensors expand

Last week Israel took another step aimed at keeping its status as a space “superpower”.

The successful launch of the Ofeq-10 intelligence satellite has increased the nation’s ability to follow hostile action in many range circles and at excellent resolution.

The Ofeq-10 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite was launched from Palmachim air base in central Israel, by an improved “Shavit” launcher.

The launcher, the satellite and its radar payload were developed and manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. The launcher’s boosters were made by Israel Military Industries.

Israel has a number of intelligence satellites in orbit. Some are equipped with electro-optical payloads and others with a SAR, which allows the acquisition of images even when clouds or dust are blocking the view from space.

Many years ago Israel gained its membership in the exclusive “club” of countries capable of manufacturing spy satellites and launching them into orbit.

The exact date when Iran will have a nuclear capability is not yet clear, but Israel is making a huge effort to know first.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in the capabilities of Israel’s spy satellites. These capabilities could not have been purchased anywhere. The result: Israel has an array of very advanced spy satellites, and is developing new and more advanced ones.

Some of the satellites are “young” in terms of space, and others more “adult”. They all broadcast images to a ground station somewhere in central Israel. The images they capture while flying in low Earth orbit over “interesting” states like Iran and Syria – but not only these nations – are received there and are put into a long process of data extraction.

While the SAR capabilities of Ofeq-10 have added to the 24/7 image collection ability, this is not the last word in the space sensor technology.

EL OP, a division of Israel’s Elbit Systems, is developing advanced hyper-spectral payloads for aircraft and satellites, to enhance the target detection and verification process.

The company is manufacturing advanced optical systems, and has produced the payloads for all the Israeli spy satellites equipped with optical sensors. However, to get better resolution from optical payloads the aperture and focal length of the cameras needs to be increased – and this is a limiting factor.

To overcome this issue, EL OP is developing the technology for a very advanced hyper-spectral payload.

According to the company, the new payload will be based on a “bank” of known wavelengths reflected from numerous of potential targets.

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