BGUSAT (Ben Gurion University SATellite) nanosatellite, a joint venture of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) in the Ministry of Science, is to be launched shortly, as part of a scientific mission by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The satellite, whose dimensions are 10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm, approximately the size of a milk carton, and which weighs only 5 kg, is equipped with special cameras able to identify various climatic phenomena, and with a monitoring system that allows the choice of areas to be imaged and researched. A dedicated- earth station, for receiving the images has been set up at Ben-Gurion University, to allow students and researchers to receive and analyze the data. The satellite will be launched on February 15, 2017, on the PSLV-C37 launcher with 103 other nanosatellites, from a launch base in India.
“This is a further step in promoting cooperation between the government, industry and academia, with the aim of propelling the Israeli space industry forward," commented Ofir Akunis, Israel's Minister of Science, Technology and Space. "Projects of this nature help preserve the status of the Israeli space industry on the world stage, and allow the advancement of research in the field."
Opher Doron, General Manager IAI's Space Division, said, “We are proud to be part of this innovative technological project, which opens up the world of nanosatellites to a variety of new scientific missions. This nanosatellite joins a long list of educational and academic activities undertaken by Israel Aerospace Industries, as Israel’s national space center."
According to Prof. Dan Blumberg, VP for R&D at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, “Nanosatellites allow activity in the fields of space engineering, and space research, at a cost which is very low in proportion to what was considered acceptable in the past. This allows academics to be much active in the field, and encourages innovation and entrepreneurship on the part of both researchers and students."
For the first time, a purpose-built computer has been incorporated into the satellite. This was specially developed for nanosatellites by IAI engineers combining computer chip developed by 'Ramon Chips', with computing capabilities, similar to those of computers in larger satellites. This computer will be incorporated into the spacecraft of the 'SpaceIL' team, and satellites of Project Samson. Furthermore, in cooperation with 'MicroGic Electronics', IAI's Space Division developed a unique camera, capable of short-wave infrared imaging of a wide range of meteorological conditions. The images transmitted from the satellite will be received at the ground stations to be set up at Ben-Gurion University and IAI. It will be possible to track atmospheric gases, such as CO2, as well as sky brightness, as the camera can discern those phenomena better than regular cameras.
Students and researchers at the university have brought together knowledge from a number of fields, such as software and electrical engineering, earth sciences, and industrial engineering. This combination enabled the construction of a station to receive the satellite imagery, and facilitate meteorological research.
In addition to financing the satellite launch, the Israel Space Agency (ISA) has allotted an additional sum of about NIS one million, to finance research based on the images that will be received from the satellite. The ISA has asked Israel’s academic institutions for research proposals connected to data gathered by the satellite. This is the first time that Israeli researchers will have the opportunity to receive information directly from an Israeli-designed and produced satellite, without the need for this information to be transferred through other countries.