Israel’s first exploration satellite, Venus, was successfully launched on a Vega launcher early Wednesday morning at the Guiana Space Center’s Kourou site.
The country’s first environmental satellite is a major project of the Israel Space Agency and the French space agency CNES. It was launched together with the OPTSAT3000, an advanced observation satellite designed for use by the Italian Defense Ministry.
Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis, who observed the launch at the control room of Israel Aerospace Industries along with ministry director-general Peretz Vazan and Israel Space Agency director Avi Belsberger, said: “This is a morning of national pride for us.
“Venus is another testament to Israel’s vast technological capabilities in all fields, and we are a force of science, technology and space with which the whole world wants to cooperate. The findings that will be sent by the satellite will include data on the environment, agriculture, water and food,” added Akunis.
Environmental satellites have become very important in recent years because of problems on Earth resulting from crowding of the population, the decline in space for agriculture and raising food, pollution and natural disasters.
Venus, which is the smallest satellite of its kind in the world, was built in the last few years by IAI. It will observe fields and nature from space for environmental research and monitor land conditions, forestry, agriculture, the quality of water sources and more. The mini-satellite is equipped with a special camera that can visualize details on Earth that are not visible to the naked eye. It will take photos of set locations in Israel and round the world and provide researchers with scores of images daily, each of which will cover 760 sq.km.
Israeli made 'Venus' satellite to orbit Earth
It will revolve around the Earth 29 times within 48 hours and repeat exact photo angles, making it possible to note differences in conditions – characteristics that make the satellite unique, said the ministry.
IAI president and CEO Yossi Weiss said that satellites are “the glory of Israeli technology and reflect Israel’s international activities in space and the extraordinary cooperation with Italy and France. The state-of-the-art observation satellites program enables the development and production of local needs and exports and is supported by clear government policy in the field.”
He called upon the Israel government to make the necessary decisions regarding the future of Israeli media satellites. Since the loss of Amos-6 about 10 months ago due to an explosion on the launch pad, no decision has been made regarding the future of the field, which will eventually lead to the loss of knowledge and accumulated technological capabilities. “We are approaching the point of no return that could lead to the elimination of Israel’s capabilities in the field of communications satellites,” he said.
“This is an exciting event for IAI in particular and the State of Israel in general,” said Weiss. “The IAI will continue to lead the field of observation satellites for Israel, with many other projects in the process. We hope that the government will know how to preserve activity in the field of communications satellites. It’s time to make an immediate decision on this issue.”
Weighing only 265 kg., Venus reached its position of 720 km. above Earth within 37 minutes and 18 seconds. The first sign with preliminary data was received on the ground five-and-a-half hours after launch, but the initial images will arrive a week later. Processed images will be sent to users three months after launch. Venus is due to remain in operation for 4.5 years, after which it will be shifted to a lower trajectory.
Some 110 research areas will be photographed around the world. When the satellite passes over Israel, Venus will photograph three swaths in the Galilee, the coastal area and the Negev where most national parks, forests, ecological stations and nature areas exist. The photos will also benefit university, government and state research institutes.
Although Venus is a joint project of Israel and France, all of the satellite’s hardware components were developed in Israel’s space industries.