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Over a year after the explosion of Amos 6 - there is still no agreed outline for the construction of Amos 8

During a follow-up discussion in the subcommittee on space in the Knesset, it emerged that an agreement had been reached regarding the budgeting of the satellite, but no agreement had yet been reached with the said companies to build and operate it. The Aerospace Industry: "We lost senior members of the team due to the uncertainty." CEO of Space Communications: "There is no chance that the satellite will be ready within 4 years." Ministry of Science: "The government's decision will be finalized soon." 

Simulation of the Amos 5 satellite. Source: Andrzej Olchawa, Wikimedia Commons.
Simulation of the Amos 5 satellite. Source: Andrzej Olchawa, Wikimedia Commons.

The space subcommittee of the Science and Technology Committee held a discussion today (Monday) on the subject of 'Communication satellites in Israel - status'.

The chairman of the subcommittee, MK Yoav Kish, said: "We asked to hold a follow-up discussion following the situation of Israel's communication satellites, we held a discussion several months ago and we want to understand where things stand."

Peretz Vezan, Director General of the Ministry of Science and Technology, presented the main findings of the public committee, which was established in the Ministry of Science after The explosion of a loaded satellite 6: "The committee determined that the manufacturer and the operator should be Israelis. There are currently no additional communication satellites under development in the aerospace industry, the field of development is in real danger and it affects the whole of communication activities in Israel. The committee found that the communication satellites are a national need."

According to the findings of the committee established at the Ministry of Satellites, Amos 3 and 4 will be active until 2025 and 2028, the active Amos 7 is a leased foreign satellite and in two years another satellite will be launched - Amos 17 which was purchased and is made by Boeing. You are Amos 17 expected to launch The SpaceX company that had faith in launching Amos 6.

In addition, Vazan noted that advanced discussions are taking place to finance the construction of Amos 8 by the Aerospace Industry, "there is a summary from the Director General of the Ministry of Finance regarding the financing from the government ministries, there remains the issue of who receives the insurance money for Amos 6. Amos 8 should enter within 4 years In a busy place 7. In our opinion the government's decision will be formulated in the near future. In addition, the period of time from the end of the committee's work to the implementation of the conclusions is too long, we also need to compromise on the issue of insurance."

To MK Kish's question "Has it been shown to the ministries that we are behind schedule and we should have already started working on Amos 8?", Michal Galbert from the budget division at the Ministry of Finance answered: "We are aware of the situation and therefore we intend to bring it to the government along with the budget on January 11th." MK Kish: "January 11th is the preparation for the first reading of the 19th budget and the changes in the 18th budget, it will still have to reach the plenum, the Knesset, it does not end in January. In the earliest case, the budget will be passed in March." Galbert: "That's right, there is an alternative to make a change in the 2018 budget, that is, to make an investment under the reduction of another budget. It can be passed as a government decision."

Prof. Itzik Ben Israel, Chairman of the Israel Space Agency: "We received data from the Aerospace Industry, to the best of our understanding the funds are sufficient, but it cannot be said that an agreement has been reached with the Aerospace Industry and a space company. In our understanding it will be so. Added money from the Ministry of Science, Finance and Defense".

MK Uri Makalev, chairman of the science committee: "We see importance in the whole issue of satellites in Israel. We were nachshonim in this field and little by little it became a purely economic interest. It cannot be that an issue with such many and significant consequences in a country whose security situation is unstable, will be placed in foreign hands. Money should not be the only motive here. We stand on the sidelines while the world promotes the issue tirelessly. Leading people have left the country and will not return."

Yanon Ben Tzur, Prime Minister's Office: "We did a whole process in order to come together to decide on a proposal, we don't usually bring such a proposal when it is not closed from a budgetary point of view. We formulated an outline that we think can work, each time other problems surfaced, we believe that at the end of the process we will be able to close it."

Ofer Doron, director of Mbat Halal, the Aerospace Industry: "Despite the situation, we have invested a very considerable budget in the field this year as well, but in Israel things are going very slowly. I am happy that a budget was agreed upon, but on the other hand I still hear that there are disagreements, at the current rate the process will cost a lot more money than what was planned, leasing Amos 7 costs a lot of money. We have a large team that costs a lot of money, we lost a large part of the engineers including seniors due to the uncertainty on the subject. The foreign companies are standing in the gates hoping to take this loot, hoping to leave Israel with only foreign satellites. The danger is far from over."

David Polak, President and CEO of Halal Communications: "The situation is far from what is reported here to the committee. Proceeding without us, we have not yet finished characterizing the necessary satellite. There is no chance that within 4 years Amos will stand 8, the schedule in the aerospace industry is significantly longer. We are the only company that owns and operates communication satellites in Israel. We invested more than NIS 2 billion in the aerospace industry and we need to return the money to the investors. We lease Amos 7 at a cost of 22 million dollars a year, it was a quick move to minimize damages. Without our actions there are no sky points in favor of satellites for the State of Israel and the State cannot operate without them. Our stock was cut in half following the explosion of Amos 6, the deal of our lives with Facebook was cancelled. As soon as this happened, an offer to buy us was cut by 190 million dollars."

Itzik Ben Israel: "The committee recommends that the State of Israel declare the field of communication as a national field in which the minimum must be set and it is a satellite once every 4 years, that's the main thing. If he delays us a bit or if we add 10 million, it's marginal."

The chairman of the subcommittee summarized the discussion: "I am disappointed that we have reached this point a year plus after the explosion of Amos 6. There is a national crisis, we held a discussion and a committee was formed, but there is no outline and plan that has been approved and implemented. This is a point of failure that we have not been able to solve, I say this to the government and to us as a committee, a serious fault. This was due to slow conduct, the complexity of the bodies, schedules, budgeting problems. We will have a discussion towards the end of January, I hope that we will be after the government's decision and that we will have a dialogue around an agreement on an outline, finances, insurance, all of this should be closed within a month. It would be a grave mistake to be dragged into March. I call on all the relevant bodies, the Ministry of Finance, you are a key factor, if there is no conclusion, I will come to you with complaints. If there are agreements for the outline that will be presented in the revised budget outline for the years 18 and 19, I want a solution for the flow as well. Aerospace industry - you will have to understand that not everything you ask for will be accepted. If the budget is brought in, I ask all parties to see a budget, an outline, that the business gets underway, not schedules again."

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