Israel to subsidize new home-grown communications satellite

“This decision has long-term strategic significance and is relevant to all the criticial, existential needs of the State of Israel,” Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said.

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September 3, 2018 19:40
2 minute read.
A possible design for the new Amos-8 communications satellite

A possible design for the new Amos-8 communications satellite. (photo credit: ISRAEL AEROSPACE INDUSTRIES)

 
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The government will subsidize the development and construction of a new Israeli-built communication satellite, the Science and Technology Ministry announced on Monday.

The AMOS-8 satellite will be built and designed entirely in Israel by Israel Aerospace Industries.

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AMOS-8 will be the seventh in a series of Israeli communications satellites, with all but one developed by IAI. The first satellite, AMOS-1, was launched in 1996, primarily for home television transmissions.

The AMOS, or “Affordable Modular Optimized Satellite” series, is operated by Ramat Gan-based communication company Spacecom.

“This decision has long-term strategic significance and is relevant to all the critical, existential needs of the State of Israel,” Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said. He did not specify the amount of the government subsidy for the project.

“The development and the production of the satellite in Israel will enable us to maintain complete independence in the field of satellite communication,” Akunis said. “Building it in Israel will preserve the knowledge and expertise in the field that have been obtained during tens of years in local industry.”

The AMOS-6 satellite was destroyed in a fire during a launch test at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 1, 2016.

Contact was lost with its predecessor, AMOS-5, in November 2015. That satellite was developed by the Russian company Reshetnev.

Akunis added that the decision to fund construction of the satellite followed recommendations issued by a cross-ministry special committee established following the loss of AMOS-6.


“This decision is a stage in the implementation of the conclusions reached by the special committee – headed by director-general of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, Peretz Vezan – which were issued shortly after the great disaster of losing AMOS-6,” said Akunis.

The committee concluded that it was necessary to develop Israeli space industry infrastructure and expertise in order to reduce the costs of producing Israeli-made communications satellites, which have proved considerably more expensive than satellite production abroad.

Vezan welcomed the government’s decision to subsidize the project.

“The technological knowledge that will be gained by the work on this project will enable the entire Israeli space industry to better compete in the developing space market, and to strengthen the steadfastness of space infrastructure in Israel,” he said.
IAI board of directors chairman Harel Locker praised the government’s decision.

“Communications satellites form part of the strategic setup of the State of Israel and we must preserve the country’s independent capabilities in the field,” said Locker.

“AMOS-8 will be the most advanced digital satellite that has ever been built in Israel and will ensure optimal capabilities in the satellite field for the State of Israel and its users.”

In January, IAI director Ofer Doron told the Knesset Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space Affairs that it would take four years to build the communications satellite. The lifetime of existing satellites is 15-20 years.

Israel became only the eighth country to launch an object into orbit using its own launch vehicle when the first Ofek satellite blasted into space from Palmahim Airbase in September 1988. That satellite was primarily built for communication transmission tests.
Israel’s space agency, which was founded in 1983 and operates under the auspices of the Science and Technology Ministry, is responsible for coordinating all civilian space programs in Israel.

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