Elbit Systems is considering partnering Rafael in the latter's micro satellites programme and is expected to make a decision soon on its investment.

Rafael, which declines to comment on the programme, has proposed to the Israeli air force a system based on micro satellites to perform intelligence gathering missions. The micro satellites would be launched into orbit by a more powerful version of Rafael's Black Sparrow air launched target missile, which would be modified to carry 50-80kg (110-180lb) satellites. The Black Sparrow was developed by Rafael for use in Israel's Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile programme and is based on the company's Popeye AGM-142 air-surface TV guided missile.

The target missile can be carried by Boeing F-15-sized aircraft and launched from 42,000ft (12,800m). After a 6s free fall the motor is ignited and burns for 25s.

The Israeli air force and the country's ministry of defence research and development directorate are supporting the plan and will allocate budgets for it, which is causing concern for Israel Aircraft Industries, the country's only satellite manufacturer and launcher.

Source: Flight International