Comprehensive coverage

Avi Blasberger, the incoming director of the Space Agency, in an interview with the Hidaan site: The role of the state to support innovative developments that will increase Israel's comparative advantage in the field of space

The interview with the Hidan website is Blasberger's first interview since taking office, and in it he explains his views and plans regarding Israel's place in space, and the importance of scientific education 

Director of the Israel Space Agency Avi Blasberger. Photo: Avi Blizovsky
Director of the Israel Space Agency Avi Blasberger. Photo: Avi Blizovsky

Avigdor (Abby) Blasberger assumed the position of director of the Israel Space Agency about a month ago, but he has a background of over thirty years in the space industry, more or less since its birth in 1984.

Blasberger has a bachelor's and master's degree in mechanical engineering from Ben Gurion University and a master's degree in management from Tel Aviv University, and is currently also a doctoral student in astrophysics at the Technion.

"I started in the OP that was purchased by Elbit, and I was a partner in the development of the cameras for the observation satellites. I started as a development engineer and reached the position of director of the visual intelligence division (formerly Elbit Electrooptics), which includes all space activities, aerial photography and hyperspectral photography. Later, Avi managed the operational space and engineering issues at the OIP company, a subsidiary of Elbit called OLP in Belgium, and when he returned to Israel he managed the Elbit security systems company in Sderot until his retirement from the company at the end of 2013.

What did you know about the space agency before you got the job?

 

"I have been working with the space agency from the day it was founded for all its generations and all its managers, I knew the space agency from the industrial side first and foremost. It is true that I am currently studying the work in the government system, which is the second component of the position, but there is no topic in the space agency that I am not familiar with both from my work in the industry and from my position in recent years as the center of the space committee at the Ministry of Defense. I know all the space activities in Israel and the space agency in particular. As you know, both the MOLMOP and the Space Agency belong to the Ministry of Science and both are currently headed by the same person. Nothing renewed for me in terms of topics, scope of activity and doing. What is new for me are the internal working methods within a government office, which differs from industry to a certain extent.

 

As someone who has been in the space industry for many years, what is the Israeli industry's secret to success in space?

 

"I know all the observation satellites of the State of Israel, both civil and security. Israel is one of the most advanced countries in the world in the field of space. We did not want to rely on foreign factors and in light of the various limitations of the State of Israel, we developed satellites and cameras with weight capabilities for the most advanced performance in the world. At the time, when Ofek 3 was launched, no one believed it was possible to do something real with a satellite the size of Ofek, today we know it is possible. We are still the most advanced in the world in terms of weight to performance."

"Even in the field of communication satellites, the State of Israel is making progress, when the niche it focused on is medium-sized satellites and not huge satellites, even though communication satellites are naturally large satellites. The Amos program was born out of a recognition of the great importance of independence in the field of communication, and that Israel will have control over its own communication. The state supports developments for both types of satellites."

"We hope that there will be follow-up plans after Amos 6. In any case, the space agency is helping the aerospace industry develop unique components in the field of communications and not the entire satellite. The agency neither purchases nor operates communication satellites."

preferably versus common

Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel. Photo: PR
Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel, Chairman of the Israel Space Agency. Photo: Public Relations

In a discussion that took place a few weeks ago in the Knesset's Science Committee, the chairman of the agency, Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel, and Blasberger presented the gap between the President's Committee's recommendation and a budget of 300 million shekels that would allow for assistance to the space industries so that they would gain 3-5% of the world market, with each percentage meaning 2 billion dollars .

On the other hand, Blasberger presented the many difficulties: "The local consumers are not a sufficient source of supply, we have no orders from abroad except for what goes from country to country, the civil sector in Israel is very little and there are no communication projects except for Amos 6".

"The recommended budget is for the construction of the 'Civil National Space Program', within which the government is asked to adopt a number of goals in the fields of building industry, education and positioning Israel as a leading supplier and expert, with the aim of "reaching an industry scale of NIS 3 billion within 5 years and doubling it within 5 more years. All this on the assumption that the budget will be about 300 million per year as discussed at the beginning of the road". However, instead of adding - cutting - the space agency's budget is only about NIS 70 million in 2016 and 2017.

Blasberger addresses the issue in an interview with the scientist website: "When our budgets increase - and I believe they will increase - along with the increase in budgets, the industry will increase. Already today there is a lot to do. Five years ago there was nothing today there is quite a bit."

"What was said in the Knesset was said in the Knesset. It was said that we have a budget and we want to increase it. The magic number of NIS 300 million is a committee's recommendation and was never promised. There are many committees. We strive for more action, and in order to do more we strive to increase the budget. Now the 2017-18 budget discussions are taking place I am sure this will be the case. I cannot specify amounts while we are in budget discussions. We do not manage the budget discussions through the media."

What do you think of the words of Ofer Doron, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries, that if Amos 7 is not ordered by Israel Aerospace Industries, it will be difficult to preserve investments in the Israeli space industry?

Blasberger: "We support the industry so that they can improve their competitiveness and so that they can sell and have a job, but we are not responsible for all conservation. We see ourselves as supporting the development of new knowledge. It is not our job to have a permanent workforce in the industry.

"If you develop something that cannot be sold, it is not our job to buy all the time just to preserve it. Our goal is to develop the industry. And there is a big difference."

 

If the space agency had a bigger budget - what projects are in line?

"There are no projects that are waiting in line, there are projects that we are promoting. First of all, we promote issues according to the space agency's mandate: we promote international collaborations, support for the industry, some of which also comes through international collaborations, and some of which directly develop the space industry. We promote research topics in the field of space - mainly in academia. We strongly promote the subject of education and the community. "

"Within the framework of international collaborations, we are promoting the Shalom satellite project following the framework agreement signed at the International Astronautical Union convention held in October 2015 in Jerusalem."

"The Shalom satellite will demonstrate hyperspectral sensing technologies - observations in the field of signatures and not in visible light. It will be used for locating and monitoring minerals, precision agriculture, monitoring water sources, monitoring infections. The satellite will have many civilian applications both research and commercial. The goal is for us to move from the research phase to the commercialization phase and for commercial companies to develop applications based on information that will come from the satellite."

"With the Italians there are issues that we realize beyond peace. We are partners in the JUICE project of the Italian Space Agency together with the European Space Agency for a scientific mission for justice. The Israeli side is developing a precise oscillator that is included in the satellite, but through the Italian agency, not directly in front of ESA."

 

And of course we cannot forget the cooperation agreements with NASA that were also signed in Jerusalem as well as an agreement with the Indian, Canadian and German Space Agency (DLR). We are now in the process of formulating common issues. Not only satellites but also technological issues, subsystems that are important to both sides and, of course, research and academic cooperation."

 

What is the status of the Venus satellite being built in collaboration with the French Space Agency and hasn't the long waiting years made it obsolete?

Blasberger: "The Venus satellite will be launched according to the plan - in the second half of 2017, from the Kourou space base in French Guinea using the Vega launcher, and not from Russia as previously planned. The satellite is in final combinations in the aerospace industry. "

"The information that will come from him is very valuable. There is no satellite like it yet. It is true that if it had been launched five years ago, it would have been more groundbreaking, but it will still be groundbreaking and of great scientific value."

 

 

 

Space 2.0

What is the agency's role in encouraging space 2.0 companies?

"The private space sector is also growing in Israel and is generating many small companies. The space agency financially supports developments that have potential for industrial growth.

"There are a number of companies that the space agency supports with the goal of developing space outside of the big companies and as a private initiative. Not only Rafael and Elbit air industry. This is a trend that exists in the world and we are interested in Israel being a partner in this trend, we support this trend. Examples of this: Ramon Chips, Ricor, Spice Pharma, Sky Pay, Incubit, Effective Spice and more."

Miniaturization technology is advancing. What they once did in the room - the Apollo was launched and planned with computers that have much less power than a cellular device. The microelectronics and communication components are getting smaller and smaller and their capabilities are increasing and if once everything was led by the big companies it has spilled over to civilian industry. There is also a movement of using commercial applications also in the field of space and the more fertile the imagination, the more ambitious the applications will be. Today, there are hundreds of cubesat-type nano-satellites that are 10 x 10 x 10 centimeters in size and do the work of a large satellite. Thirty years ago they would have said that it was impossible to build a satellite of this size in semi-mass production and that students and even students could design and fly it."

"The universities also have projects that make use of nanosatellites, at Ben Gurion, at the Technion, because the accessibility of such projects is easier and it is possible to develop both research and technologies through them, and they can also be used to encourage students to study science."

"In this context, Israel surprised when it first launched a student satellite - Dokifat 1, and it is planning Dokifat 2, and Dokifat 3 is also already on the drawing board."

"We are trying to expand the canvas and have students in the periphery also participate in the development of the satellites. Meir Ariel (Director of the Science Center in Herzliya whose students built Duchifat) told about students he has in Yeruham, Ofakim, Ofra, Shaar Hanegev, Hora. I know that there are space circles in the Arab sector as well in localities such as Taiba, Kfar Yerka in the Druze sector and more. You can open space trends. Although not every school needs to launch - but it is possible to share as many sectors as possible in the development of one satellite. The important thing is that these students should study physics and mathematics and they will form the reserve not only of the space industry but of the high-tech industry as a whole, which is desperate for engineers."

"In the broader context, our goal at the space agency is to support science studies. Even foreign space agencies, including those not affiliated with science ministries, see support for education as enabling science studies in general and not just space studies. We belong to the Ministry of Science, which is actually its mandate, so this has an additional advantage."

 

 

 

 

3 תגובות

  1. State-of-the-art scanners carried on nano-satellites developed in Israel when all the platforms are carried into space with the help of thundering boosters that can also be used to carry other subjects - all this for what?
    If we don't develop the capabilities of processing the vast information in smart, fast applications and in the near future if not in real time - what is the point of all this?

    Development of applications for the processing of satellite imagery, ground-breaking algorithms to speed up the processing and accessibility of information also for the civilian sector - these require an advanced human resource that already exists in the country but is neglected both in the field of education and in the field of academic and other research. While our heroes from the financial divisions play the important booms, they forget to leave a tithe for applications or in short for extracting information from the giant matrices collected by monitoring the whole or part of the earth.

    And in the children of Jerusalem we will be comforted.

  2. The passive activity of the space agency is miserable and sad, it's good that they encourage space studies, but where will all those who finish their studies work?? And all the national pride of Israel is Curiosity's air conditioner?
    Instead, define a national project like the one brought at the time, for example a research spaceship to one of the planets, establish a development center and give a chance to people to work who will not go looking for themselves in Europe, the USA and Canada.

  3. Well done, interesting. It is worth creating another fund for the chief scientist that will focus only on space technologies. And so in addition to high-tech - there will be a growing space industry here. And why not cooperate with Japan? They have a very active space agency.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.