The Israeli space industry needs a boost

This is the perfect paradox: Israel develops and manufactures spy and communication satellites, launchers and advanced space payloads – but in spite of all this activity, the country has not been successful in making these proven assets a business.

And there is another problem – the lifespan of the Israeli satellites is much longer than anticipated, and this has created “hidden unemployment” in development and manufacturing.

The Israeli government has not yet proved it understands there is a problem: “We have great difficulties in keeping the teams in their current positions. We talk about elite experts, and that is a disaster,” a senior industry source said.

In June 2010, the Israeli Space Agency submitted a report to the prime minister asking for greater investment in the needed infrastructure, so Israel can become a major player in the world space market.

The report said that in ten years, Israel could hold a $6-10 billion chunk of that market – but only if the needed money is invested.

The agency and the ministry of science have asked for an annual investment of $85 million, which will be used in a five-year plan aiming to bring Israel closer to the huge market.

But politicians are politicians, and the disappointing result was an annual grant of $52 million – for two years.

In this situation, Israel Aerospace Industries – which makes satellites and launchers for low-orbit spy satellites – and Elbit Systems, which makes optical payloads, will struggle to keep the space business alive.

There is no sign that the politicians understand the problem. Even if they are capable of understanding it, they would have probably become owners, or at least senior managers of big industries.

This paradox is very nearly a threat to the future of the Israeli space industry as a world player.

Will this change? I doubt it, but miracles do happen from time to time.

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