The Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) and the Israel Space Agency said on Wednesday that Israel will launch a group of three nanosatellites into space in 2018.
The launch, which is the first of its kind in Israel, will be carried out by Dutch company Innovative Solutions In Space, which specializes in launching nanosatellites on India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), as part of the Adelis-SAMSON Project.
The project was initiated by a team of researchers led by Pini Gurfil, director of the Asher Space Research Institute and member of the Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, and supported by the Adelis Foundation and the Israel Space Agency.
The goal of the project is to prove that a group of satellites can fly in a controlled formation for one year while orbiting at an altitude of about 600 kilometers.
"Israeli technology is breaking new ground and demonstrating its innovativeness over and over again," said Israel's Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis.
"We are proud to be part of this flagship project, which represents a significant contribution to the advancement of Israeli aerospace and the training of students in this field," he added.
The satellites will be used for receiving signals from the Earth and calculating the location of the source of transmission for search and rescue operations, remote sensing and environmental monitoring.
The three satellites all measure 10X20X30 cm, about the size of a shoebox, and each one weighs about 8 kg.
The satellites will be equipped with measuring devices, antennas, computer systems, control systems and navigation devices, while the flight software and algorithms were developed in the Technion Distributed Space Systems Lab.
"The field of nanosatellites has developed significantly in recent years and the number of launches doubles annually," said Avi Blasberger, director-general of the Israel Space Agency.
"The development and launch costs of such satellites are significantly lower than those of conventional satellites. In the near future, we can expect networks of thousands of nanosatellites to fly above the Earth and enable high-speed Internet communication at significantly lower costs than today," said Blasberger.
The unique technologies include Rafael's krypton gas-based propulsion system, which will be the first system in the world to power a tiny satellite, while the digital receiver was developed by Elta and the guidance control system developed at Israel Aerospace Industries MABAT plant in cooperation with researchers from Technion.
In addition to the propulsion system, the satellites will accumulate energy through solar panels that will extend from the sides of each satellite and serve as wings that will control the flight formation without the use of fuel by means of air resistance in the atmosphere.
Each of the nanosatellites will be equipped with a digital signal receiver, one of the most complex receivers ever designed for a nanosatellite.
The satellite information processing system and the algorithms that control the formation will be the first of their kind in the world and will support the autonomous operation of several satellites together.
The communications and navigation system will include two GPS receivers to be used for autonomous navigation and a communications system to be used by the three nanosatellites in order to communicate with one another and with the ground station, a significant challenge that has been solved in the project.
In addition, a dedicated frequency will be used for sending data to the Earth via broadband.
"If we manage to prove in space that flying in formation is possible, it will be a major boost for the development of small satellites and technologies related to the miniaturization of electronic components, for efficient space processing and for space propulsion systems," said Gurfil.