Israel will be investing hundreds of millions in the development of small satellites that can be launched from an airplane, enabling the Israel Air Force and Intelligence Corps the ability to gather information on specific targets on short notice.
Senior sources in the air force said that they have been working for a year or more on pinning down the technical concept of micro-satellites and the missions they could carry out.
Currently, Israel is operating three intelligence satellites – Ofek 5, Ofek 7 and SAR-1. The state also purchases satellite footage from local and foreign companies.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems wishes to supply this new demand. Rafael is trying to develop micro-satellites weighing less than 120 kilograms â€“ that is many times smaller than ordinary satellites developed by Israel Aerospace Industries.
These new satellites will also be able to fly considerably lower than their predecessors, the company said.
Traditional satellites usually fly in altitudes of 600 to 700 kilometers above the earth, since lower altitudes would necessitate more engine use. The low weight of the micro-satellites will enable them to fly at as low as 300 kilometers, which will allow for lighter and less powerful surveillance gear.
The main cost reduction will come at the launching stage, however, since it would not necessitate buying or building expensive rockets.
Menachem Kadron, chief of Rafael’s space department, says that he believes that with sufficient sponsorship, the micro-satellites will be operable within five years.