Israeli tech aids NASA in space

Kfar Saba-based Sital Technology manufactures a robotic satellite that is planned to orbit the Moon.

By DOV LEIBER
June 17, 2009 22:23
2 minute read.
Israeli tech aids NASA in space

shuttle launch 88. (photo credit: )

 
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NASA plans to use equipment produced by Kfar Saba-based Sital Technology to launch a satellite on Thursday that will investigate the Moon, Mars and beyond. During the mission, the robotic spacecraft is to orbit the Moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter constitutes the first part of NASA's new mission to "extend human presence in the solar system." The satellite is tasked with "finding safe landing sites, locating potential resources, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technology." Sital's contribution is a small communications chip implanted into every subsystem in the satellite. The chip links the various components of the satellite, passing data among them. For example, the new chip is responsible for sending information from the radar to the laser system. Sital's Vice President for Marketing & Sales Duli Yariv, 43, founder and R&D Manager Ofer Hoffman, 44, and CEO Nir Hamzani, 40, are the three most responsible for creating the communication chip being used for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. They met in the Israel Air Force, working together as instructors for F-16 jet radar. Sital prides itself on its technology's robustness and small size. "In space, specifically in deep space, the further you go from the Earth the more radiation there is," Yariv explained. The radiation heats the electronic components, which could lead to the malfunctioning of communications systems, causing them to distort data. Sital tested its new communications system chip under the harshest conditions space had to offer, and found that not one bit of data was changed, he said. The chips' especially small size is also important. Smaller chips mean a lighter satellite, and the "weight of a satellite is very important in space," as the smaller the satellite the smaller the chance for technology failure, Yariv said. NASA first contacted the small Israeli company four years ago. "They found us on the Internet and sent us e-mails and requests," he said. "They concluded they we could provide the best technology." Sital did not actually produce the chip it provided to NASA, it sold the design. Yariv said there was a wonderful relationship between his company and NASA. So much so, that in one e-mail, a NASA engineer wrote to the company, "You should not give away your great products so cheaply." In reality, though, the Israeli communications chip had been the most expensive option for NASA, Yariv said. The same Sital technology is also being used to create the James Webb Space Telescope, which will replace the Hubble Space Telescope in a few years, as well as in the avionics systems in many military aircraft.

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