(AP) Israel launched an advanced spy satellite Monday that will be able to track events in Iran, the country it considers its top foe, even at night and in cloudy weather, defense officials said.
The TECSAR satellite is of particular importance for Israel because it can be used to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear program, which the U.S. and Israel fear is a cover for pursuing nuclear weapons, they said.
The satellite, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, operates with a special radar system, allowing it to view much more than existing Ofek satellites that use cameras, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
Israel has backed U.S. efforts to get the international community to intensify sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for power generation.
The company confirmed the satellite launching in a statement.
"The TECSAR is the first satellite of its kind developed in Israel, and ranks among the world's most advanced space systems," the statement said.
The satellite includes an advanced imaging system based on synthetic aperture radar, or SAR, technology, the statement said.
The development and launching cost tens of millions of dollars, the officials said. Within two weeks it will be possible to view pictures from the device, the officials said.
Israeli and Indian experts cooperated to launch the satellite with an Indian rocket from southeastern India, IAI said.
The satellite weighs some 660 pounds, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported, citing unnamed company officials.
Israel currently operates a number of reconnaissance satellites, including Ofek 5 and Ofek 7, as well as several commercial satellites such as the Amos and EROS series, Haaretz said.