The Israeli defense establishment failed today in launching the OFEQ-6 spy satellite into space. The satellite, produced by Israel Aircraft Industries MBT (MABAT) - Weapon Systems and Space Technology division, was launched at 1:53pm from the Palmachim Air Force Base, using a Shavit satellite launcher, also manufactured by IAI MBT.
The satellite's cost is an estimated $100 million, while the launcher's cost is in the tens of millions of dollars. According to the Ministry of Defense's initial assessment, the launch failed due to a malfunction in the third stage of the launch, when its engine refused to ignite after disengaging from the second stage.
The OFEQ-6, equipped with long-range cameras outfitted with sophisticated night vision capabilities, was supposed to join the OFEQ-5 in space. The OFEQ-5 spy satellite was launched in 2002.
The defense establishment had hoped to double the number of its active spy satellites, to enable better, more effective tracking of targets. Israel is interesting in tracking the so-called third circle of threats to Israel, meaning Iran and other far-flung countries.
News website Y-Net today cited defense sources who called the launch a failure "which must be investigated to find out why it happened. This was an important launch that was very significant to Israel's security, and its failure certainly rankles."