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20 years since the launch of Ofek 3 - the first military photography satellite that amazed even its developers with its performance

This is how Brigadier General (Res.) Prof. Haim Ashad, who was one of the initiators of the program and chaired it in the first years, describes it in an interview with the Hidan website

Launching the Ofek 3 satellite on a Comet launcher. Photo: IAI
Launching the Ofek 3 satellite on a Comet launcher. Photo: IAI

20 years ago today, on April 5, 1995 at 14:16 p.m., the Ofek 3 satellite was launched from the Palmachim Air Force Base on a Comet launcher. Although it was the third satellite in the series of military observation satellites, according to the person who was in charge of the project, Brigadier General (res.) Haim Ashad in an interview with the Hidan website that took place this evening (Sunday), it was the first fully operational satellite.

"It was an incredible breakthrough. His performance far exceeded expectations. When we opened the camera to allow him to take pictures of the Mabat parking lot (the Mabat space plant of the Aerospace Industry, where the control room of the Ofek satellites was located, AB). We were sure that we would have to make resolution improvements, but the resolution was simply amazing already when the first photo was downloaded. Even the designers of the Balouf camera were surprised because it was the theoretical limit. We could see cars and even recognize some of them.

Eshad, who headed the Abir administration in the Ministry of Defense, reviews how the military photography satellite project was born: "When I served in 1978 as head of R&D at the headquarters of the Chief Intelligence Officer, after Sadat's speech and the beginning of the talks to sign the peace agreement with Egypt, we were told that Sinai must be evacuated and that we must Find a solution because it will be impossible to fly photo flights over Egypt with a peace agreement. It was clear that the solution was a satellite, and we sat down to study the issue for two years (1978-1979), and visited NASA facilities and the European Space Agency, and came up with the recommendation to Defense Minister Ezer Weizman."

"Weizmann assigned the task of testing to Dr. Manes Prat, who was the chief scientist at the Ministry of Defense, who founded Dimona. He was nice and asked a lot of questions. I thought that after so many questions he wouldn't approve, but to my surprise he did and said that given the right administration and whoever will head it, this program can succeed."
"When I came to Ezer Weizman to present the findings, he gave it to his deputy Mordechai Tzipori to check. But a short time later he resigned and thus the matter was frozen until the elections in 1981, when we held a discussion with the Minister of Defense who was also the Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. Even then, almost everyone was against it. Starting with Chief of Staff Raful, his deputy Moshe Levy (Moshe Hachi), and even Air Force Commander David Evri. The one who supported me in a really enthusiastic way was only the head of the AMN, Major General Yehoshua Sagi. Begin looked at everyone and said that in the future this is important for the people of Israel, something that managed to amaze everyone. He made a decision that a space program would be established."

Second-hand parts satellite

"The administration I headed was established in 82 and we immediately started working. Six years later, in 1988, the Ofek 1 satellite was launched, which was an experimental satellite. This is an unprecedented achievement, because in six years we developed both a satellite and a launcher, the famous comet that became a family of launchers. Two years later Ofek 2 was launched which was an improvement over the experimental satellite but was still not fully operational. Ofek 3 was actually the first satellite in an operational configuration which, as mentioned, amazed us all. What's interesting is that because I didn't have the money to finish building it from new parts and the time was also limited, I used all kinds of parts that we bought earlier for experiments. And so we had a new satellite from second-hand parts. That too was a wonder in itself. After that we were already on track and advanced generations were developed, but Ofek 3 was undoubtedly a breakthrough."

How was the news received by the neighbors that Israel was filming them from space?
"It was received by the neighbors with great astonishment. In the media in Arab countries, especially Egypt and Iraq, as well as in Iran, there were those who claimed that the satellite posed a greater risk than other projects.

Is the Iranian space program an answer to the Israeli space program?

Ashad: "In my opinion, the success of our program pushed the Iranians in their plan without a doubt."

Tal Inbar also participated in the preparation of the article, who published a three-part series "Blue and White in Space" on the Hidaan website

12 תגובות

  1. It would be interesting if you ever write about the work of Marcel Dessau, for the sake of the aviation industry. Because there were times when they still produced fighter planes in Israel.

  2. Haim Lef, sometimes the typing is intuitive. And I don't always check. Even Bar Kochva had typos.

  3. It's just that there is no project called URC. It was an experimental balloon, spin, spinning, "aliens implanted me"......
    Thanking and leaving Yeruham...

  4. There is a project called URC, on the joint construction of a research station on the moon. China, the United States and Russia are partners in the project. Haim, we should learn from France, which built a cosmodrome in South America. Money is a problem, but Israel built large projects with less money than other countries, or with creative financing.

  5. 9
    You are talking about the exploration of the moon and the exploration of Mars using spacecraft and launchers here in Israel. The entire Israel Space Agency has two and a half employees and the entire State of Israel is a neighborhood in New York City. Where exactly was an Israeli canberal fun built? You got a little carried away.

  6. Leon, I'm afraid you've somewhat forgotten the meager dimensions of the State of Israel. We don't have that kind of Siberia where you can send dozens of missiles without anyone within a radius of hundreds of kilometers witnessing them. Here, within a radius of 15 km from Palmahim, there are nine cities, and then we just start Gush Dan. Our censorship is also not very successful and everything it tries to block makes a small jump abroad and returns "according to foreign sources".

  7. Leon, what is relevant?
    The article contains first-hand testimony about the decision-making process and the construction process. It is possible to launch a primitive satellite (the Iranians sent a few years ago). But the Israeli spy satellite would reach surprising results. And if there were failures, the project would be stopped due to excessive cost.

  8. All this is in principle known things. You would ask how many launches failed before launching Ofek 3.

  9. It is worth developing a new series of missiles. which were so powerful that they would allow us to send a probe to the Moon or Mars. This knowledge would give us a permanent advantage against the military missile program of current and future enemy countries. In addition, a space program that would promote research on the Moon and Mars would improve the country's reputation.

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