The Ofek 11 military spy satellite launched on Tuesday from Palmachim Airbase in central Israel has encountered significant difficulties, the Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which made the satellite, said hours after the launch.
Amnon Harari, head of the space administration in the Defense Ministry, and Ofer Doron, head of IAI’s MBT Space Division, said the satellite entered its orbit correctly and began circling the Earth every 90 minutes, but it remained unclear if all onboard systems were working.
“There are a number of things that are worrying us,” they said in a statement.
Officials said the ground control station was trying to stabilize the satellite as they communicate with it.
“We are communicating with it,” Harari and Doron said. “We still do not know if there are problems. We are carrying out widespread checks. There are indications that things are not working as we expected.”
Ofek 11, part of the Ofek series, was supposed to become Israel’s sixth active spy satellite. The troubled launch follows the loss of Amos 6, an Israeli civilian communications satellite, which was destroyed when its SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher blew up on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 1.
Two years ago, the Defense Ministry and IAI successfully launched Ofek 10 into space aboard a Shavit (Comet) space launch vehicle.
That satellite carries synthetic aperture radar, which has advanced day and night imaging capabilities.