The Space Race: Israel Aerospace Industries Outpaces France with Advanced Satellites to Morocco

According to Moroccan media and a publication on the Israeli stock exchange, Israel Aerospace Industries will supply two OptSat-3000 satellites to Morocco, following fierce competition against leading French companies

The Space Race: Israel Aerospace Industries Surpasses France and Sells Advanced Satellites to Morocco

Morocco-Israel MoU, 2022. Photo: IAI

This week, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) reported to the stock exchange a significant deal worth one billion dollars over five years with a third-party company. According to Moroccan media reports, it appears that this deal involves the sale of two OptSat-3000 satellites through a local company. A report by the website PortailSudMaroc from last January states that the tender was awarded to IAI in mid-2023, after intense competition with the French industry represented by Airbus and Thales Alenia Space.

According to publications in Israel, the decision to choose the Israeli industry was influenced by the connections of the company’s chairman, Amir Peretz, in Morocco. France had built Morocco's previous two satellites, Mohammed-VI A and B, based on Astrosat-1000 satellites. This is not the first arena where IAI competes with the French industry in the space sector. In recent years, there has been a business struggle over the sale of a military satellite to Vietnam, a deal that is still pending.

Why does Morocco need more satellites? According to the report, for military and economic purposes. Militarily, primarily to spy on Algeria and the Polisario Front, a terrorist group claiming ownership of Western Sahara, a territory currently under Moroccan control and backed by Algeria. Israel recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in July 2023, likely as a prerequisite for securing defense deals in Morocco. In return, Morocco did not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over any territory. The recognition occurred close to the intensive discussions surrounding the satellite deal.

Economically, Morocco needs satellites to monitor illegal fishing and as a means of dealing with natural disasters.

According to the report, the satellites sold by IAI will have a resolution of 40 cm per pixel and will be able to work in conjunction with an Italian radar satellite named COSMO-SkyMed. If the report is accurate, the ability to examine the same point on Earth using both a radar and an optical satellite allows for observation in any weather, with superior tracking capabilities compared to optical alone.

It can be assumed that the Royal Center for Space Remote Sensing, an organization established by Morocco to develop space applications, will be involved in the development and construction of the new satellites.

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