The pre-dawn launch Monday of a new reconnaissance satellite further establishes Israel as one of the world’s superpowers in space, and grants it an important further intelligence advantage over its rivals.
The primary intelligence contribution of the TECSAR satellite, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, lies in improving capabilities of intelligence gathering and coverage over Iran.
Although planned several years ago and delayed a number of times of late, the launch sends anew a message to Iran that Israel continues to maintain its superiority in the field of intelligence in space.
The message coincidentally accompanies last week’s high-profile launch of an Israeli Jericho surface-to-surface missile, also intended as a signal to the leaders of Iran.
The launch of an Israeli satellite atop an Indian missile from a launch site in India bears a number of additional advantages. First, it enables Israel to establish a new point of view in space, allowing it photographic angles and reception of Iranian communications which were unavailable in prior satellite launches.
The direction of the launch, from the east and opposite to the earth’s rotation, allows Israel increased coverage of sites in Iran. TECSAR’s optical capability is based on SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) technology and on its cameras, which are more advanced than those employed by the Ofek intelligence satellites developed and used by Israel. Image resolution will be better, sharper, and of higher overall quality.
The radar technology aboard TECSAR renders its photo and listening abilities usable under all earth weather conditions, including dense clouds, rain, and storms, and at night as well as during the daylight hours.
Even before the Monday launch, Israel could take pride in being one of the world’s superpowers in space, along with the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and India. At the moment, Israel has three reconnaissance satellites in space, Ofek 5, launched in May, 2002, Ofek 7, sent into orbit last July, and TECSAR. It also has three communications satellites of the Amos and EROS series. This satellite system furnishes visual and auditory intelligence, interception of media communications, and reception of electromagnetic signals from radar.
The launch is also an expression of the growing cooperation between Israel and India in the security sphere as a whole, and in particular in the fields of missiles, radar, and satellites.
India is currently the most important export market for Israeli weapons systems, hardware, know-how, and technology. A high-level delegation of Indian scientists and military officers, experts in the missile and space fields, is to visit Israel next month, in a further expression of the strategic cooperation between the two countries.
Although command, control, and supervision of the TECSAR will be in Israel’s hands, foreign media have reported that Israel will allow India access to some of the data sent back to ground stations. This is a sensitive issue for Israel, because it may spark anger in Pakistan.
On the other hand, Iran, which has close ties with India, which in the past supplied Tehran with materials and equipment for developing chemical weaponry, would be expected to be angry with India over the launch of an Israeli satellite.