Three Israeli satellites will be launched simultaneously for the first time on Saturday, March 20.
These autonomous satellites, developed as part of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's Adelis-SAMSON project, will be launched from Kazakhstan onboard a Glavkosmos Soyuz rocket, and will subsequently be used to calculate the location of planes, ships and people.
Each satellite, known as CubeSats, weighs around 8 kg. and comes equipped with sensors, control systems and navigation tools. But what is arguably most notable is the unique and innovative propulsion system, which will help keep the satellites moving, as well as thee solar panels that will gather energy and, if necessary, control the flight of the satellites without fuel and only using air drag in the atmosphere.
This will allow the satellites to travel 550 km. above ground and transmit signals to the Technion's Asher Space Research Institute's (ASRI) mission control center.
This is not the Israeli university's first foray into space. In 1998, Technion launched the Gurwin-TechSat II. Eleven years later, that satellite is still in orbit.
Now, the Adelis-SAMSON project hopes to follow this success with a new one.
"Basic research over the course of many years, combined with advanced Israeli technology, allows Israel to take an important step forward in the field of nanosatellites," ASRI's Prof. Pini Gurfil, who led the project, explained in a statement.
"You could compare the innovation of nanosatellites to switching from the personal computer to the cellphone. The Adelis-SAMSON project demonstrates a new concept in nanosatellite design and will enable many operations to be carried out that have been reserved until now for large and expensive satellites.”
“This is a leap in the field of miniature satellites, in the capabilities of the Technion, and for the entire State of Israel," he said, "and one which will make the Technion a global pioneer in the fields of geolocation and satellite communication, with diverse applications including search and rescue, remote sensing and environmental monitoring."
While Technion may have experience in launching satellites, they are not the first in Israel to launch a nanosatellite.
In February, a nanosatellite designed, developed, assembled and tested by Tel Aviv University was launched from a NASA launch facility in Virginia.
The mission of this satellite, TAU-SAT1, is to conduct several experiments, including measuring cosmic radiation.
And being a nanosatellite using atmospheric drag to travel, it has no engine. Because of this, "the nanosatellite’s trajectory will fade over time as a result of atmospheric drag – and eventually it will burn up in the atmosphere and come back to us as stardust,” according to TAU's Miniature Satellite Lab head Dr. Ofer Amrani.
But in launching that satellite, TAU literally launched itself into the "Civil Space Revolution. Also called New Space, this term refers to how the field of satellites is no longer limited to just massive, well-funded companies. This is especially notable, as many experts believe the nanosatellite field will be critical in maintaining high-speed Internet and communications in the future.
One of these experts is Avi Blasberger, director of the Science and Technology Ministry's Israel Space Agency, who notes that more nanosatellites are launched every year and their cost and development is lower than traditional satellites.
"In the near future, networks are expected to appear to include thousands of nanosatellites that will cover the Earth and enable high-speed Internet communication at a significantly lower cost than is currently available, as well as having many other applications such as the one demonstrated in the Adelis-SAMSON satellites," Blasberger explained.
And now Technion is launching itself into the revolution, too.
The launch will be livestreamed on March 20 at 07:15 Israel time here: https://youtu.be/J1nfIV-4_e8.
Maayan Hoffman contributed to this report.