After three months of testing, Israel’s Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) handed control of the “Ofek 16” reconnaissance satellite over to the Israel Defense Forces’ 9900 intelligence unit, the ministry announced on Sunday.

Following the satellite’s successful launch on June 6, engineering teams from the Space Administration of the ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) and IAI ran the spacecraft through a pre-planned series of in-orbit tests to prepare it for operational use.

Control of the satellite was officially handed over in a small ceremony in an IAI control station, attended by ministry Space and Satellite Administration head Amnon Harrari, Executive Vice President and General Manager of IAI’s Systems, Missiles and Space Group Boaz Levy and IAI Space Division General Manager Shlomi Sudri.

The Defense Ministry has led the development of both the satellite and its launch vehicle, with IAI being the prime contractor. Elbit Systems developed the satellite’s camera and payload, while the launch engines were developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the government-owned company Tomer.

The IDF’s Unit 9900 specializes in geography—including mapping and interpretation of aerial and satellite photographs—and space research.

A photograph of a Roman amphitheater in Palmyra, Syria, captured by the “Ofek 16” satellite, released by Israel’s Defense Ministry on Aug. 24, 2020. Credit: Israeli Defense Ministry.

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