Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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7 Av 5763 - August 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Israel Plans New Military Satellites
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Now that Israel has entered the ranks of the space powers and has seen, besiyata deShmaya, their value, it is planning further efforts in that field, hoping to launch three new satellites in the next five years.

About a year ago Israel launched a military satellite called Ofek 5, which proved its worth in recent months during the war in Iraq and thereafter. As a result, other programs will be encouraged.

According to Ha'aretz reporter Amnon Barzilai, Israel is currently developing three military satellites for intelligence gathering purposes: Ofek 6, Ofek 7 and a radar satellite named TECHSAR. According to the head of the Defense Ministry's Space Program, Professor Haim Eshed, the three satellites will be ready by 2007/8 and will be much more capable than Ofek 5.

Within a few months Israel is planning to launch a civilian communications satellite called Amos 2. A military communications satellite is also being planned.

"Since the war in Iraq there has been a growing understanding that there is no substitute for space and that it is one of the important elements in the conduct of war," Eshed told Barzilai.

One of Israel's biggest headaches in launching satellites has always been the fact that it is hemmed in on three sides by hostile Arab countries. Most launchings are directed against the rotation of the earth, that is, to the east. Israel's only open side is to the west. It has made some launches in that direction, and in other cases it has sought other sites elsewhere in the world.

Eshed said the research in the space program is focused on two areas: new photographic techniques making use of various light wavelengths and using advanced methods such as three dimensional photographs for mapping and radar photography; and also an effort to reduce the size and weight of such satellites. The hope is to be able to be able to send up exceedingly small satellites, even less than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) that will have capabilities that are only found in much larger satellites today, when even a "micro" satellite weighs 100 kilograms. Smaller satellites are easier to launch.

Scientists at the Rafael are working on technology to launch satellites from F-15 fighters. The US uses such technology for anti-satellite missiles but with its vast area has no need to launch regular satellites that way.

"The air force would like to be able to fire a number of satellites weighing 100 kilograms, that will cover the field of battle," Eshed says. He expects Israel will have the technology for such launches within five years.

Eshed says there are 500 people employed in the program, which he says is very small compared to other countries involved in space. The lead contractor is the space section of Israel Aircraft Industries, while the main subcontractors are Elta, Rafael, Elop, Israel Military Industries (Rafael), Tadiran, Elisra and Specterlink.

"Since the inception of the space program 20 years ago, the state has invested more than $2 billion in the program. In other words, a mere $80 million annually."

Eshed says Israel has invested in its space program because of its efficiency and the fact that using satellites to photograph does not contravene international law. "The first paper I wrote as a research and development officer in Military Intelligence was in 1978. The visit of Egypt's president Anwar Sadat was on the horizon, and the question was raised regarding our ability to continue filming the Sinai peninsula [without violating Egyptian airspace]."


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