The Israel space industry – how to keep it alive ?

The Israeli space industry is trying, so far with not much success, to explain to the government that without special funding the sector’s infrastructure is in jeopardy. Israel has become a member of the “space club” mainly because it needed capabilities in space that could not be bought outside its boundaries.

Even the US, Israel’s big ally, limited the space capabilities it made available to Israel.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in the capabilities of Israel’s spy satellites, with the result that, in space, Israel has an array of very advanced spy satellites and is developing more advanced ones.

This capability is impressive if one looks at the members of the very exclusive club of nations that can manufacture and launch their spy satellites.

Israel has six active spy satellites in space. Some are “young” in terms of space, and others “adult”. All six broadcast their images to the ground station somewhere in central Israel. The images they capture while flying in low earth orbit over “interesting” states such as Iran and Syria, but not exclusively those ones, are received here and are put into a long process of data extracting.

Three satellites from the Offeq series, two so-called ‘civil’ satellites from the Eros series and the Tecsar synthetic aperture satellite,  allow Israel to continuously monitor areas of interest.

But one factor was not taken into account – the Israeli satellites live longer than expected and that has slowed down the pace of manufacturing new ones. This has caused “covert unemployment” in the main facilities that develop and make satellites. The engineers and technicians, mainly at the space division of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) find themselves working in a very frustrating atmosphere.

The plan was to use ‘dead’ periods for the build-up of new facilities but the budgets were not allocated. It is very hard to keep the development crews in place. A source familiar with the situation said: “We have a real problem. On the one hand the domestic demand for new satellites is small, and on the other we cannot get export licenses for Israeli imaging satellites for each country that wants it.”

The solution is new budgets, but as things stand, they are a long way off. 

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