MK Ophir Akunis .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis said Monday that millions of shekels are needed immediately to rehabilitate Israel’s space program and build a new satellite to replace the Amos 6 satellite destroyed in a September explosion.
A report released Monday by the committee Akunis established to examine the fallout from the loss of the satellite recommended an immediate annual grant of NIS 20 million to the Space Communications Company to lease a replacement for Amos 6 until a new satellite is constructed. An additional NIS 70m. is needed to launch a national, multi-year project to develop four more so the country is not dependent on foreign satellites, it said.
In addition, the committee said the Israel Space Agency needs an annual budget of NIS 110m. (NIS 30m. more than this year), and recommended building, every four years, a satellite to carry out engineering and scientific tasks.
“The space industry is in a severe crisis that threatens the national space program,” and replacing Amos 6 “is vital to ensuring Israel’s existence and maintaining our position in the small club of countries that operate in space,” the report stated.
It went on to say that, eventually, four telecommunications satellites should operate simultaneously, and the state must support the development of products in the aerospace industry that will compete in the world market.
The committee indicated that an array of communications satellites is needed to strengthen the security of the communications industry during emergencies, noting that the state needs to be able to obtain information independently and transfer it through communications satellites.
The committee, led by the ministry’s director-general, Peretz Vazan, portrayed a worrisome picture of the crisis in the Israeli telecommunications satellite field as threatening the space program as a whole.
Amos 6 was meant to replace the Amos 2 satellite, which serves many Israeli consumers and is expected to stop functioning in early 2017, leaving only Amos 3 and Amos 4 in operation.
The remaining satellites will not be able to meet all the country’s needs, including those that do not involve civilian communications, Vazan said. Without working on new satellites, he said Israel will lose know-how and manpower.
Because Israeli-made communications satellites are more expensive than those in the global market, the committee said a plan must be formulated to bridge the cost gap.
The committee noted that the life of a satellite is about 15 years, so a new one must be built every four years so four can function simultaneously.