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The goal: five Israeli satellites will be launched into space in the next 5 years

Defense / The head of the space program opposes budget cuts *

Amnon Barzilai, Haaretz, voila!

Israeli satellites 2008-1988

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In about five years, Israel will have the ability to launch satellites weighing about 100 kg from F-15 aircraft. This is just one of the predictions provided by Prof. Brigadier General (ret.) Haim Ashad, head of the space program in the defense establishment, in his first interview with the Israeli press. According to Ashad, by 2008 Israel will gradually complete the development of three photography satellites for intelligence purposes - "Ofek", "6", "Ofek" 7 and a radar satellite ("Texar") - which will be a more advanced generation of the current photography satellite "Ofek".5

Even before that, the communication satellite "Amos 2" will be launched by the end of the year, after which the construction of a military communication satellite twice its size will begin. According to Eshad, the cut in the defense budget did not bypass the space program, "but so far the cut has been with consideration and an understanding that increased following the war in Iraq that there is no substitute for satellites, and that space is one of the most important things for conducting a war." Ashad warns, however, "in the area of ​​the budget, we are on the red line and further cuts may damage the foundations of the space program."

Eshad (64), who served at AMAN as head of the research and development (R&D) department, is one of the founders of the Israeli space program and the founder of the Israel Space Agency (ISA). He is proud of the performance of Ofek 5, which was launched about a year ago: "Apart from the Americans, we pass all the countries of the world in the field of satellites on two main issues: the level of separation of photography and the quality of the image." Ashad estimates that the development of "Ofek" 6 will be completed in 2004/5. The development of "Ofek" 7, which already belongs to the third generation of satellites, will be completed according to the estimate in 2007/8.

Ashad reveals that at the same time as the development of the photography satellites and the radar satellite, a "vision" was formed in the security system in two main areas:
* Developing and building clusters of many photography satellites in a variety of wavelengths that will allow: photography in the visible field; Infrared photography (which detects objects on the ground through temperature changes); Taking pictures in color (hyperspectral) that allows, among other things, to distinguish between dummy targets and real objects; XNUMXD electro-optical or radar photography for mapping purposes; and radar photography.

* Development and construction of the next generation of small "mini" (up to 500 kg), "micro" (up to 100 kg) and "nano" (up to 10 kg) satellites, which will have the same capabilities as large satellites. Barfael is also working on developing technology to launch satellites into space from F-15 Ashad aircraft: "The Air Force would like to launch satellites weighing about 100 kg, upon request, that will pass over the battlefield." He estimates that Israel will have such an ability in about five years.

According to Prof. Ashad, today there is no clear boundary between military and civilian satellites, but emphasizes that Israel cannot be satisfied with photography services from commercial satellites of other countries. "It should be remembered that the USA and other countries reserve the right to put their hand on the switch and prevent the distribution of images from space to other countries," he points out, "this was the case during the war in Afghanistan and the war against Iraq when the USA prevented the civil satellite 'Iconus' of the company 'Lockheed' Martin' to send photos to its clients (which includes the Ministry of Defense, AB)". In addition, "there are specific military things that the civilian-commercial side will not be able to provide - for example, the level of separation of the image."

In this context, Ashad reveals that as part of an agreement between Israel and the US, the Americans promised that their civilian satellites, who sell their photographs, would not sell photographs of Israel at a higher level of separation than the Russians sell.

"Since its establishment 20 years ago, the state has invested more than two billion dollars in the space programs, that is, only about 80 million dollars per year," says Ashad. However, according to him, even though Israel's investments in space programs are orders of magnitude smaller than in the US and Europe, "Israeli achievements in space are impressive." He explains that "the secret is in the focus." In the 20 years of developing the space programs, we focused on two types of missions: remote sensing using mini-satellites, and communication satellites. Israel has an independent ability to develop and build mini-satellites, and as far as we know these satellites are the best in the global space market today."

Ashad believes that the Israeli satellites are a "technological marvel." No one believed we could make mini-satellites. We decided to focus on designing satellites that will be at the forefront of technology, not a gradual development, but a leap forward." Thus, according to him, Israel was 15 years ahead of other countries. In his estimation, the miniaturization plans will result in considerable savings and enable the production of a satellite costing only about 10 million dollars. "My ambition is to reach a situation where it will be possible to launch micro satellites costing 15-7 million dollars. We can launch small satellites to monitor the big satellite," he adds.

According to Ashad, the space industry in Israel is tailor-made for the country. "We have everything we need to realize the vision. But we need strategic investors who will use the expertise and infrastructure we have built." The development of small satellites is Israel's comparative advantage, he explains, "We can turn this niche into an intelligence and commercial success, similar to the success in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles." However, according to him, "to be successful in selling satellites you need aggressive marketing - which is not being done. Today we encounter two limitations in exporting satellites: political reasons and the fact that the market is 'captive' in the hands of the Americans. But there are methods. When France wants to market weapons systems, President Jacques Chirac goes to market himself. Here I do the work, but the captains need to do it."

The idea of ​​satellites arose in preparation for the Chinese evacuation

According to Prof. Brigadier General (Retd.) Haim Ashad, head of the space program in the defense establishment, the main reason for Israel's entry into space is strategic, and also stems from the fact that international law permits the launching of satellites. "The first paper I wrote as the head of R&D at AMN was in 1978. The visit of Egyptian President Sadat was on the horizon, and the question that arose was how we could continue photographing the Sinai Peninsula. We started looking into how we can continue to photograph areas that are prohibited for airplanes to fly, but are not prohibited for satellites to pass through."

According to Ashad, about 500 people are employed in the Israeli space industry - a "joke", as he defined it, compared to what other countries invest. The main contractor is the systems and space division "Mabat" of the Aerospace Industry. The main subcontractors are two other factories of the ITA - "Tamm" and "Alta" - as well as Rafael, "Aloup", the military industry, "Tadiran", "Specterlink" and "Elishra".

Israel's knowledge in space - satellites

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