SEOUL, South Korea — Israel launched the latest in a series of Ofek reconnaissance satellites March 28 on the country’s Shavit rocket.

The solid-fueled rocket lifted off from Israel’s Palmachim Airbase on the Mediterranean coast at 7:10 p.m. Eastern and placed the Ofek-13 satellite into orbit. Israel’s defense ministry said the spacecraft carries a synthetic aperture radar payload with “advanced capabilities.” The ministry said the launch was successful, and Ofek-13 had completed initial tests after entering orbit. 

Ofek-13 is the first spy satellite Israel has launched in nearly three years, following the electro-optical Ofek-16 launched in July 2020. 

State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which manufactured Ofek-13, said the satellite is the “most advanced of its kind with unique radar observation capabilities,” enabling intelligence collection regardless of the weather.

In a March 29 statement issued by the prime minister’s office, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant called the launch of Ofek-13 “yet another important example of the Israeli defense establishment’s groundbreaking innovation.” He said Israel will “continue to enhance its capabilities in every dimension in the face of various challenges.”

The March 28 launch was the latest in a series of actions Israel has taken to enhance its space defense capability amid escalating tensions with Iran. In January, Israel’s Air Force said it will launch a space defense-dedicated unit called Space Administration, which will initially be commanded by a lieutenant colonel. The unit will “explore ways for Israel to use space,” according to the Jewish News Syndicate

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...