Israel is one of a handful of countries in the world to have its own successful space program. The Israeli Space Agency which heads the Israeli space program cooperates with other space programs, including NASA, the French space agency. With both military and commercial purposes, the Israeli space program specializes in making micro-satellites that use a relatively small payload (around 250 Kg) for high-level communications and imaging purposes.
OriginsThe Israeli space program began in mid-1980s as a security program meant to provide Israel with its own intelligence satellite capability. The entire OFEK satellite series was meant for specifically this purpose – to provide Israel with satellite imagery and information.
In the mid-90s, the Israeli government and the space companies in its ownership began to branch out the space program to include civilian satellites for geological imagery and mapping out of territories. These include:
The VENUS project – Done in cooperation with France, the VENUS project’s goal is the development and launching of 260kg micro-satellites capable of multi-focus imaging of Earth. These satellites are typical of Israeli projects, which combine complex and high-level systems while reducing the weight and expense of the satellite payload fourfold.
EROS satellites – Commercial imaging satellites for multi-purpose monitoring of the Earth. EROS A was launched in 2000 and EROS B in 2006. Both satellites are owned by ImageSat International N.V.
AMOS satellites – Commercial communications satellites meant for TV, internet and general data transmission. So far, three AMOS satellites have been launched, giving increasingly better coverage for clients in the Middle East, Europe and the Eastern United States. Two additional AMOS satellites are being prepared for launch, AMOS 4 – to link between East Asia and the Middle East, and AMOS 5 which will cover Africa.
The Israeli space program is a combined effort of military and commercial companies, including the Israeli Defense force. The main companies involved in the design of satellites and their components are the Military industrial companies of the Israeli Aircraft Industries and Rafael, and their subsidiaries. Commercial companies such as ImageSat International N.V. are responsible for the surveillance and provision of services from commercial satellites.
In addition to these companies, Tel Aviv University and the Technion Technological Institute both have advanced programs for the study of space and design of satellite technology. Students and professors in both institutions have contributed to the success of the Israeli space program.