With an eye on arch-foe Iran, Israel has launched a spy satellite from a base in the country's south to boost its intelligence gathering capabilities.
The satellite, Ofek 9, was launched last evening from the Palmachim Air Force base in central Israel. The satellite "was launched and successfully injected into orbit by means of a Shavit satellite launcher," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
"In the next phase, the satellite will undergo several tests for validation of its serviceability and satisfactory performance," the statement said, noting that Ofek 9 is an "advanced technology remote sensing satellite."
"When we wish to examine targets, we need our own satellites to do the job," a senior defence official here said adding, "The new satellite will enable us to perform frequent activity at higher resolution."
Defence Minister Ehud Barak praised Israel's defence industries and security establishment officials following the launch. "The launch today is a technological and operational achievement few states, especially states the size of Israel, are capable of handling," he said. "The success of the launch is an expression of the valour, thinking, and extensive abilities of the defence industries and security establishment in IsraeL," Barak added.
Israel had earlier launched satellites in January 2008, June 2007, and in May 2002. The launch of Ofek 6 failed in September 2004.