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Exclusive: IAI is setting up an incubator for space startup companies

This was announced by the CEO of the aerospace industry's Mabat-Hell plant, Ofer Doron, at a panel dealing with the Israeli space industry.

Pavilion of the aviation industry at one of the aviation conferences in the world. Jordan Tan /
Pavilion of the aviation industry at one of the aviation conferences in Singapore.Jordan Tan /

The aviation industry is establishing an incubator for start-up companies in the field of space, known as SpaceNest. This was announced by the CEO of the aerospace industry's Mabat-Hell plant, Ofer Doron, at a panel that dealt with the Israeli space industry under the guidance of the chairman of the Israel Space Agency, Lt. Col. Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel, as part of the Israel Business Conference.

According to Doron, the greenhouse will be built outside the fence and the developers will have inspection services, including vibration systems, vacuum systems, heating and cooling, and consulting services of engineers in the various fields as needed. He adds that the greenhouse will be built outside the IAI fence to avoid the need for entry permits for the companies' employees.

Before the panel, four representatives of companies in the space field presented their developments. Dr. Eran Pribman, CEO of SPACEIL, presented the project of landing a spacecraft on the moon as part of the LUNAR XPRIZE competition in collaboration with Google. The association is raising funds to launch the spacecraft in 2016. It is estimated that a budget of 60 million dollars will be needed.

Prof. Ran Ginosar, CEO of Ramon Chip presented the company's chip that flew in the Yabosa-2 spacecraft that was launched last week to meet an asteroid, as well as the chip of the next generation computer with 64 processors that will be able to make the satellites smart (full article coming soon). Yossi Yamin, CEO of Space Pharma described the platform for conducting experiments in space on various platforms - satellites, the space station, parabolic missiles, airplanes as well as on the ground under conditions similar to those in space (except for gravity of course). Raz Itzhaki Tamir, CEO of NSLComm, showed the antennas for satellites that the company is developing that will be able to transmit to the ground with high bandwidths and without the need for special antennas.

"The four companies presented here illustrate the ability to build a new "New Space" industry. The Israeli ecosystem is biased towards government and security bodies, to increase the ecosystem and with it exports, startups are also needed. Building a start-up in the space field is not easy. Prof. Ginosar developed his chip for years until it flew into space. All development and business financing models are completely different when it comes to space. The wisdom is in taking the experience and the depth and breadth of knowledge that are required to succeed in the space and combine it with entrepreneurship, agility and wisdom that young entrepreneurs bring.

No person has all the knowledge required to build even a small satellite. The trick is how to connect both the physical infrastructures - experiments and development, as well as human knowledge. We are now looking for the first startups who will implement the symbiosis between the experienced industry and the smart ideas. I hope we will receive the encouragement both inside the house and in the government and we can get going. I wish we would find ourselves in three years with 0 startups, some of whom are already in the space.

Doron also added that the senior researcher at the greenhouse is Lt. Col. (Res.) Ofer Lapid, head of the Ultrasat program at the Weizmann Institute. Lapid also participated in the panel and said that the situation is today that many graduates of the military satellite program do not find work and turn to other fields. Some have dreams in space and SpaceNest was built for people who have the ability to dream. Let the dreamers continue to dream and the adults will provide the infrastructure.

In contrast, Brigadier General (res.) Amnon Harari, the head of the space administration at the Ministry of Defense, was skeptical and said that he was afraid that when the Stratafists needed experts, they would not be available to help them. He recommends building a government infrastructure that will employ engineers on its own like NASA does and who will be at the disposal of the entrepreneurs and even guide them.

Also participating in the panel was Prof. Ehud Bacher, head of the Technion's Asher Institute for Space Research, who explained the difference between industry and academia and described the Samson project - under which three satellites will be launched for the first manned flight of its kind in space. "In the industry you go for things that have been tried. In academia, if something was done elsewhere it is no longer interesting. We built a satellite already 15 years ago at the Technion (by the way, we built two - the first one exploded on launch and they had to take their turn to complete the second one, which operated for quite a few years AB), so we have to do things more deliberately." In response to Prof. Ben Israel's question, Bacher said that the idea to build three satellites that would fly in a formation flight was that of a researcher who saw it as important and was implemented after he was chosen from among five alternatives. "Today we need an industry to help us build the parts of the satellites that are not a novelty, these are our same students from 20 years ago, but I am not ashamed to say that in this field they surpass us."

By the way, the name Samson came from the name of the donor who also made it possible to put appropriate initials on him in English as is customary in satellites.
Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel mentioned the bringing to the Technion of the International Space University in 2016 and even earlier the World Space Conference that will be held in Jerusalem in 2015 and added: "Thanks to work and a lot of effort we convinced the government that there is a future for civilian space for the simple reason that the global market has crossed the 300 billion A dollar per year in products, services, satellites, communication systems, launchers, etc. There is no reason for Israel not to take a percent or two of the world market. Each percent is $3 billion in sales. The infrastructure is in our hands, it was developed by the security system. The government agreed to add a small amount of money aimed at leveraging the assets that the security system built for the benefit of commercialization and the economy, similar to the trend in the US."

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