JERUSALEM – The first high-quality images from an Israeli spy satellite designed to track Iran's nuclear program arrived at a ground station over the weekend, an Israeli official said Sunday.
The Eros B, launched last week from Russia, is capable of capturing images on the ground as small as 27.6 inches.
The satellite, which can remain in orbit for six years, reaches equatorial areas once every five days and crosses over the North Pole 16 times a day, said Shimon Eckhaus, chief executive officer of ImageSat, which oversees the satellite.
However, the satellite can take pictures of images 310 miles to the right or left of it, so it can snap pictures of the same spot more often, Eckhaus said.
Satellite pictures published in Israeli newspapers Sunday showed vivid images of a Syrian dam, helicopters in Sudan and a military port in an unidentified country.
But the satellite's main purpose is to track Iran's nuclear program at a time when Tehran is refusing to comply with U.N. demands to halt uranium enrichment and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling for Israel's destruction.
Doron Suslik, an official at state-run Israel Aircraft Industries, a partner in the satellite project, declined to say whether images from Iran had also arrived.
"All the satellite's systems are working as necessary and the pictures that were received Friday afternoon ... were of an excellent quality," Suslik told The Associated Press.
Eckhaus said he didn't know if the pictures contained images from Iran.
Israeli officials have labeled Iran the greatest strategic threat to Israel at this time, and have called for international sanctions on Tehran to pressure it to halt its nuclear program.
Israel, the United States and other Western countries believe Iran's nuclear program is meant to develop weapons, but Tehran insists it is meant for civilian purposes.
Iran failed to meet a U.N.-imposed Friday deadline for halting uranium enrichment, a step needed to manufacture both nuclear weapons and energy, raising the possibility of international sanctions on the Islamic republic.