The Israeli Ministry of Defense and Israel Aerospace Industries announced the launch of a new spy satellite from a base in the center of the country, the “Ofek 16” satellite, on 6 June.
"The Space Administration of the Defense Research and Development Directorate of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and Aerospace Industries successfully launched the reconnaissance satellite (Ofek 16) at four local time (01:00 GMT)," the ministry said on 6 June.
In its statement, it indicated that "the advanced photoelectric reconnaissance satellite shall be subject to a series of tests."
Defense Minister and Acting Prime Minister Benny Gantz hailed the achievement, saying that "the successful launch of the Ofek 16 satellite is another impressive achievement" for the defense sector in Israel.
According to the defense minister, "technological excellence and intelligence capabilities are essential to the State of Israel (…) We will continue to enhance and maintain Israel's capabilities on every front and everywhere."
The satellite was launched by the Israeli-made Shavit missile, which was used to launch previous "Ofek" satellites. The first pictures will be received from the moon in about a week.
The Defense Ministry statement did not provide further details about the main mission of the satellite, but Israeli public radio said it would be used to monitor Iran's nuclear activities. Israel has long maintained that it will strive to prevent Iran from acquiring atomic weapons. Tehran denies that its nuclear program has any military aspects.
Earlier on Sunday, Gantz said his country was not "necessarily" behind every mysterious incident in Iran, after a fire at the Natanz nuclear facility prompted some Iranian officials to say it was caused by an electronic sabotage.