Israeli press outlets are reporting that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) engineers are resolving many of the technical faults discovered on its latest reconnaissance satellite – Ofek-11 – launched last week on 13 September 2016 from Palmachim Air Base in Israel.
Further, IAI engineers are quietly confident that the remaining problems with Ofek-11 will also be resolved, and that the satellite will be of operational value to the Israeli Ministry of Defence.
Shortly after launch on 13 September 2016 it became apparent that there were problems with the Ofek-11 satellite, built by IAI for the Israeli Ministry of Defence. According to various Israeli press reports at the time, the Ofek-11 satellite was successfully put into orbit by its Shavit launcher, but was not responding to all of the commands being issued from its Israeli mission control.
At one point it looked as though Ofek-11 might have been irrecoverable, and if that had occurred then September 2016 would have turned out to have been a catastrophic month for the Israeli space sector, having first lost Spacecom’s Amos-6 telecommunications satellite when it was destroyed by a SpaceX Falcon-9 space launch vehicle that blew up on its Cape Canaveral launch pad on 1 September 2016.
That accident not only destroyed the Amos-6 satellite that was due to be launched on 3 September 2016, but also jeopardised the sale of Spacecom to the Beijing Xinwei Technology Group Co. Ltd., a Chinese telecommunications company, for U.S.$285 million. Both companies are now reviewing that sale in light of the loss of Amos-6, while SpaceX and the U.S. government are still trying to find the cause of the 1 September explosion.
IAI engineers and Israeli defence ministry officials are telling the Israeli press that the images sent back so far by Ofek-11 are of high quality and suggest that the troubled satellite will be able to fulfill most, if not all, of its intended mission.
“Even if the satellite won’t work at 100 percent productivity and agility, it still works and will continue to work and provide good materials to the security establishment,” said a security establishment official speaking with Israeli news website Jerusalem Online.
“At the same time, a continuous effort to improve the satellite’s performance is being made,” said the official.