23 years after the first Israeli satellite was launched, IAI official elaborates on recent projects
23 years after the IDF launched its first satellite, Ofeq 1, Mr. Yehiel Shalev head of the Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) Observational Satellite Department, elaborated on recent innovations in the field.
"In the 23 years after we first launched Ofeq we developed in three fields," said Shalev. "These include electro-optic observation satellites, communication satellites, Amos, and the SAR - Synthetic Aperture Radar used for radars."
Building satellites, also known as "integration" can take up to three years and requires extensive and specific work. The work rooms are isolated, sterile and are kept at a set temperature year round.
In its final development stages, the SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite receives transmissions using radars and thus is impervious to any weather changes on Earth. It will be able to receive pictures and transmit accurate information in any climate. Almost twice as large as the other satellites the Amos 4 is the largest communication satellite the IAI has ever created, according to Shalev.
"The Amos's capabilities are measured by the number of transponders it has. The Amos 4 has more transponders and antennas, better suited for commercial purposes," he explained. When launched, the satellite is expected to weigh 4.3 tons.
The OpSat 3000 is a new observation satellite, "This is a new generation of observation satellites and a continuation of the Ofeq program," said Shalev. "The OpSat 3000 will operate better using technologies we developed here, including new optical and control systems. The pictures will be more accurate and at a higher resolution."
The new satellite will have a telescope with a wider diameter than the Ofeq 9, enabling it to take better quality pictures. "In later models, we will also add a color telescope," Shalev added.
"We've recently begun working on micro and nano satellites. A micro satellite can be used for a variety of purposes. Nano satellites weigh only a few kilograms and are different than anything we've done so far. Instead of using one large satellite for an operation, we can use several small ones," said Shalev.
The nano satellites are cheap to manufacture and extremely cheap to launch since they weigh less than ten kilograms.
Since satellites cannot be repaired once launched, it is crucial to ensure that every part operates perfectly and can withstand the changes in environmental conditions.
Testing the satellite's operation in space IAI uses a five meter vacuum room. Each satellite's balance and durability against launching turbulence is tested as well.
"The extremely loud noise the satellite creates when launched may affect the mechanic operation of the satellite and we must make sure the system can withstand it," explained Shalev.
Additionally, ovens are used to simulate the extreme temperature in space and test the various parts of the satellites.
"The development stages are risky and require a huge financial investment," said Shalev. "We build models of all the systems and test them one by one to make sure everything works. And it's worth it: we have a perfect record and every satellite that was launched is operating flawlessly for many years, as planned."