Nano, Micro and Mini satellites in Israel – an operational need?

Nano, micro and mini satellites. The question is not only whether these small space system will become operational tools for military use but for other users too.

Israel has been involved in the nano/micro/mini satellite effort for some years, but until now there has been no sign that these very small space marvels are at the stage where they can be used for real missions.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is building and integrating nano-satellites for scientific applications. Such nano-satellites typically weigh less than 10kg and are commonly used to demonstrate new technologies and execute space missions with a short duration – typically up to two years.

As well as the innovative and technological achievements involved in the development of nano-satellites, the main reason for their existence is to minimise the risk of large space missions and save expense.

Nano-satellites use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, which allow a significant reduction in the cost and duration of satellite development, typically about one-hundredth of the cost and less than half the time for that required for large satellites. 

The InKlajn-1 nano-satellite, owned by the Israeli Nano-Satellites Association (INSA) is  in its integration phase. It contains seven scientific and commercial experiments, in which the behaviour of terrestrial components is to be tested in space. 

In this nano-satellite project, teams of engineers and technicians are using experience gained while working on IAI’s range of observation and communication satellites.

The scientific effort is organised and impressive, but a few years ago, trying to use the existing technology for the production of operational micro satellites failed.

MicroSat, a joint company formed by IAI and Rafael, planned to build satellites that weighed up to 120kg.

The plan was to equip these light satellites with a variety of payloads and launch them either from planes or from the ground.

The Israeli airforce has been evaluating the use of micro satellites for the detection of ground-ground missile launchers during war. The plan was to store the micro satellites in airforce bases, and to launch them when operational demand required.

But MicroSat remained on paper. The reason is still debated between the two partners and the IAF. Will that change and the project move forward? At this point in time there is no clear answer.

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