Israel’s national space program will focus on sophisticated communications satellites and microsatellites, Major General (res.) Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel, Chairman of the Israel Space Agency, tells IsraelDefense.
According to Ben Israel, the last round of discussions on the program are expected in the coming weeks, with the aim of finding government funds to the tune of 1.5 billion shekels ($416 million) spread out over a five year period.
The new space program was drafted by the Space Agency and Ministry of Science following a report that Israel was losing its relative advantage in the field of space because of the focus on satellites for military purposes. Israel is considered one of the world’s eight leading countries in the number of orbiting satellites (thirteen, as of March 2011) and one of the top five countries in satellite technology. The new program intends to bring Israel into the age when the global space economy reaches a hundred billion dollars a year so that Israeli companies will be prepared to win a significant slice of the pie.
Professor Ben Israel, former head of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure and now as chairman of the Space Agency, says that Israel has to put its military technologies to use in the civilian market. According to Ben Israel, the new national space program, that was passed last summer, will be discussed in the coming weeks with the aim of receiving the necessary resources.
The program envisions seventy percent of the government grants (from 2011 to the end of 2016) devoted to Israeli industries that will develop space products for civilian uses. The remaining thirty percent will be directed to R&D grants outside of industry.
“In the past, too, the Israeli space industry was awarded government grants, but this happened only after they presented a proven project. According to the new plan, the budget will be given upfront and we’ll channel the development to directions designed to strengthen Israel’s relative advantages”, says Ben Israel.
This means that in the field of sophisticated communications satellites the emphasis will be on developments based on software intensive digital communications. The field of microsatellites is planned for observation, research, and locating materials that can be used on earth.
Even before the final okay is given to Ben Israel’s program, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) already entered the field of small research satellites.
The company developed a small satellite weighing about 150 Kg that serves as a bus for designated payloads. The IAI program foresees research institutes or scientific organizations supplying the payloads that will be integrated into its satellites.
Some of the missions envisioned for these satellites: identifying supernovas (exploding stars); measuring raindrop size to obtain an indication of rain; measuring air pollution; identifying atmospheric instability, and so forth.