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NASA will launch the first Israeli space telescope ULTRASAT

The space telescope, a flagship project of the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Israel Space Agency, will be launched in 2026 and is expected to revolutionize space exploration

US space agency NASA launch you ULTRASAT - The first Israeli space telescope and flagship project of the Weizmann Institute of Science andIsrael Space Agency in the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology - to a high orbit around the Earth in 2026. ULTRASAT is expected to revolutionize our ability to discover and analyze transient events in the universe, which appear in the sky for a relatively short time, such as mergers and explosions of stars. The cooperation agreement was signed last week between the Israeli Space Agency and NASA. 

The Israeli space telescope Ultrasat. Screenshot from a video by Prof. Eli Waxman, Weizmann Institute
The Israeli space telescope Ultrasat. Screenshot from a video by Prof. Eli Waxman, Weizmann Institute

According to the signed agreement, NASA will join as a partner in the project and provide the launch for all its components. As a partner, NASA will receive access to the scientific observation data that the satellite telescope will perform. The Israeli Space Agency will believe in transferring ULTRASAT to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, from where it will be launched. After the launch, ULTRASAT will circle the earth in a high orbit (geo-stationary, like the orbit of communication satellites), and will be able to maintain regular and continuous communication with the ground station in Israel.

The volume of the universe that will be accessible to ULTRASAT at a given time for the purpose of detecting transient events, will be 100 times greater than that accessible to existing observatories. In addition, ULTRASAT will measure the light emitted in the ultraviolet range, which cannot be measured from the ground, and will inform the scientific community about the occurrence of events in real time. 

""This is a scientific breakthrough project, which puts Israel at the forefront of global research. The recognition of the significant scientific contribution of the mission caused leading international organizations, such as NASA and the DESY research institute, to join as partners in the Israeli-led project"

The combination of these unique abilities will make it possible to observe the universe in a way that has not been observed until now, will shed light on basic questions about the universe, such as the origin of heavy elements in nature and the effect of giant black holes on their environment, and will affect astronomical research on a wide range of topics, including sources of gravitational waves, supernovae, stars Variables and starbursts, active galaxies and the absorption of stars by massive black holes.   

"Breakthrough science requires technology at the forefront of global development and progress," said Uri Oron, Director of the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology. "The requirements from ULTRASAT, such as a wide field of view, advanced ultraviolet sensitivity, and real-time control and data transfer capabilities, are at the forefront of global technological capability. The Israeli space and detector industry can provide these capabilities. The Israel Space Agency is proud of the collaboration with NASA, which is another example of the strong partnership between the agencies, and the involvement of the Israeli technological industries in the development of ULTRASAT."

Dr. Mark Clampin, head of the Astrophysics Division at NASA, said: "We are proud to take part in this partnership. This is an international effort that will help us better understand transient hot events in space. ULTRASAT will give the global scientific community an important ability to make new observations in the emerging field of multi-messenger astronomy in real time."

"This is a scientific breakthrough project, which puts Israel at the forefront of global research," says Prof. Eli Waxman, an astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and ULTRASAT's principal investigator. "The recognition of the significant scientific contribution of the mission caused leading international organizations, such as NASA and the DESY research institute, to join as partners in the Israeli-led project. They invest significant resources in launching and building the camera in exchange for active participation and access to the scientific products. This is a collaboration driven by science."

The satellite was built by Mebat Aerospace Industries, which will be responsible for both the integration of the telescope, which will be built by Elbit Systems-Alup, and for the management of the mission in space. The DESY Institute is building the camera that will be installed inside the telescope, with dedicated detectors developed for the mission by Tower Semiconductor. 

ULTRASAT is expected to have a wide impact, in addition to and beyond the scientific discoveries themselves. The success of the mission will prove that it is possible to achieve scientific breakthroughs using small and relatively cheap satellites - about 90 million dollars - and will pave the way for similar Israeli missions in the future. The high scientific profile of the mission will strengthen the position of the Israeli space industry and Israel's position in the international arena through collaborations with leading industries and agencies in the field.

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