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Space Agency CEO Menachem Kidron: International collaborations enable leveraging of the Israeli space industries * Tomorrow: Live broadcast from the space station for Israeli students

Kidron said these things in an interview with the Hedaan website after the signing of a cooperation agreement in the field of satellite navigation with the European Union in phase B of the Galileo project and says that the Commission now wants Israel to also participate in the Copernicus project to develop Earth observation satellites to monitor natural disasters and improve agriculture

A model of one of the Galileo satellites at an exhibition in Berlin, November 2012. Photo: shutterstock
A model of one of the Galileo satellites at an exhibition in Berlin, November 2012. Photo: thimble /

The Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Science signed a cooperation agreement in the field of satellite navigation (GNSS) with the European Union, which operates the Galileo project, the European equivalent of the GPS.

The agreement was signed in a solemn ceremony in the presence of European Union Vice President and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship at the European Commission Antonio Taiani, incoming EU Ambassador Lars Faborg-Andersen, Minister of Science, Technology and Space Jacob Perry and Director of the Israel Space Agency Menachem Kidron.


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In the coming years, the "Galileo" navigation satellites and ground navigation systems developed in Europe will enter into operation, thereby complementing the old systems developed in the USA and Russia. The Europeans have a significant contribution to improving the continuity of service, availability and improving the accuracy of the systems through the introduction of additional satellites. The "Galileo" satellite system is considered one of Europe's flagship projects and by the end of the decade it will include 30 satellites, of which 27 are active satellites in orbit in space and three more replacement satellites. These satellites provide data directly to people around the world who benefit from advanced GPS services and related technologies such as Waze navigation apps.

The Ministry of Science stated that the agreement will allow industries and academia in Israel to participate in projects in the field of satellite navigation with their counterparts in the European Union. "The issue of international collaborations is very high on our priority list, not only because we like to do collaborations, but because international collaborations are an excellent lever to advance the main goals of the space program that we trust." Kidron said in an interview with the website Hadaan following the signing of the agreement.

"Through collaborations we connect our industries with other industries through the space agencies. In this way, we leverage the mutual capabilities, shorten the negotiation time, and leverage the budget we have to achieve successes in the development of technologies and products that will advance the civilian space industry.

"It is natural that in this framework we will sign with the European Commission the second chapter of the Galileo project called GNSS. In this aspect, the European Commission wanted us to join the Copernicus program as well. At the meeting there, the vice president of the European Union put the proposal on the table and invited us to join the Copernicus program, in the framework of which a number of satellites of different types will be developed that are supposed to be the European spearhead in all matters of agriculture, disasters, water use monitoring and more, with more sophisticated observation capabilities and we need to consider it In sympathy, of course within the budget.

What is the status of previous projects that Israel has with the European Union on space issues?

The Venus project (a French-Israeli satellite for multispectral observation of the Earth that is being built jointly with France AB) is on the last line. We are looking for a launcher and expect to sign the agreement for its launch with Ariane, aboard the Vega launcher - the European launcher for medium-sized payloads. It was difficult to find a body to launch the satellite, because for financial reasons we are required to place it as a secondary payload in the launch of another satellite. After trying the Indians, the Russians and even American officials, we reached the French and we hope that by the end of the year we will sign the launch contract and move forward.

We are working with the Union on other issues of cooperation - such as the development of electric propulsion for small satellites, since we are aiming for miniaturization and are looking for a propulsion that will match it. We are also looking at the development of lightweight components, atomic clocks and more with our partners and we need to choose among them those that will be more attractive to both sides and we can identify that there are industries on both sides that are able to pick it up. There are also issues that we work with the independent agencies of the countries and in particular of France and Italy.

From time to time the question of Israel joining the ESO project - the Southern European Observatory - comes up. What's up with that?

Kidron: "We need to examine the issue. Participation involves an entrance fee of several million euros, which is a significant proportion of our budget, which is already closed for other things. I guess there will be a meeting soon. At the end of November, a group of five leading scientists will arrive from ESO who will want to show why this is good for the Israeli industry because in order to build the telescopes they will have to order work. All in all, it is a welcome thing that scientists will be able to use the best telescopes in the world with a diameter of 40 meters each and will be able to further promote astrophysics in a country that is a leader in the world."

During his speech at the signing ceremony of the agreement, Minister Jacob Perry thanked Deputy Commissioner Antonio Taiani for his leadership and personal involvement in promoting the European Union's cooperation with the State of Israel during his years of office and said: "The agreement is an important milestone in the relations between Israel and the European Union and indicates the mutual appreciation in everything related to research and development. Satellite navigation systems as we know them in various applications, in the security field, and in everything related to rescue from disaster sites, have changed dramatically and become an integral part of our lifestyle. The agreement will lead to cooperation whose strategic, security and economic fruits we will be able to see in the coming years."

For the first time: Israel will connect live to the International Space Station at the initiative of the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science and the Hebrew University

For the first time in Israel: a broadcast with a picture will be transmitted in real time from the International Space Station especially to Israel. The connection event will take place tomorrow, October 24, 2013 in Jerusalem as part of an event of the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science and the Hebrew University.

As part of the broadcast, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who is on the International Space Station, will give a special lecture to students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem about life on the space station and will allow them to ask questions live.
On June 5, 2013, the European Space Agency launched an ATV - Automated Transfer Vehicle - a space vehicle that brings supplies to the International Space Station - named after Albert Einstein. The vehicle is one of the largest and most complex vehicles built in Europe and has the heaviest delivery capacity among the space vehicles currently in existence in the world. In the last launch, the vehicle brought 6.6 tons of supplies that should be enough for the space station for six months. Part of the luggage that the vehicle brought with it to the station also included copies of Albert Einstein's documents given by the Einstein archive at the Hebrew University. The copies will be signed by the Italian astronaut Parmitano and returned to Earth.

About two years ago, the European Space Agency appealed to the Israeli Space Agency in the Ministry of Science with a request to name a spacecraft after Albert Einstein. The Israel Space Agency contacted the Hebrew University, which holds the rights to the use of Albert Einstein's name and likeness, and it responded to the request and allowed the use free of charge.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano was sent on a 166-day mission to the International Space Station during which he will perform no less than 20 different scientific experiments for the European Space Agency. Every day he makes sure to photograph different areas of the world from the station and regularly update his fans on what is happening at the station through his Twitter account and blog.

In addition to the broadcast to Jerusalem, the connection event will also be broadcast live simultaneously in Italy and Germany and will begin with lectures on robotics in space and satellite technologies that will be given in turn by renowned scientists from these three places. The technology involved in connecting to the International Space Station will be done by the "Binat Communication Computers" company.

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