Has ISRO launched a hyperspectral imaging satellite

Israel Space Agency chief: "Rumors are always nice"

Because he was instrumental in the construction of mysterious reconnaissance satellites, even spy satellites, and has been director of the Israeli space agency ISA since 2016, one would like to know less about the impressions of the bike tour than about what his eyes, which he helped create, of Israel in space, and ultimately himself, like that see and have seen. Presumably he will be cautious, but there is also the civil space program of his small country.

Careers in technology and defense companies

Blasberger studied mechanical engineering at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, went to the electro-optics company "El-Op" in 1982, which merged with the armaments and technology group "Elbit" in 2000, and built or managed groundbreaking satellite cameras Development. Over the years, he held high positions at El-Op and Elbit, such as heading the airborne and space-based reconnaissance departments, was CEO of Elbit Security Systems and left in 2013.

May 2016 the government made him General Director of the ISA, founded in 1983. He also studies astrophysics. He is particularly proud, he says, of the cooperation with other space agencies, the great skill of Israel in building particularly small satellites and the prospect that the US-European spacecraft combo "Orion / ESM" around the moon and In addition, at least Israeli radiation protection vests for astronauts are allowed to fly with them.

The press: Mr. Blasberger, you have been director of ISA since May 2016. What are the main projects Israel's space industry is currently doing?

Avigdor Blasberger: The biggest one at the moment, we're doing it together with the French space agency CNES, is "Ven┬Ás". That stands for "Vegetation and Environment micro-satellite monitoring" (Therefore the "u" in Venus is written like the Greek character for "micro", note). This is a small satellite that will be launched in the third quarter of this year. Among other things, it contains a high-resolution multispectral camera for observing the environment, vegetation, agriculture and water bodies. In addition, as a technological attempt, there is an electric drive, i.e. an ion motor, of a special type, instead of a chemical drive to control the satellite in orbit. After two years, the satellite will sink from 700 kilometers to 430 kilometers and its orbit will be stabilized by the electric drive.

Why are you working with France right now? Pure random?

Well, we have started a really nice satellite project with Italy, it's called "Shalom". It's about hyperspectral imaging plus radar, this is the next generation of imaging. I wouldn't speak of coincidence, we just have partnerships with all the major space agencies in the world and choose projects that are mutually beneficial. It is no coincidence that we choose this or that project that, for example, was in mutual interest with France. And that's how it was with Italy, we're doing something with the Germans, we're looking for opportunities with NASA, the Isro of the Indians ...

The Indians: They brought one of their Ofeq reconnaissance satellites into space in the past ...

Yes, that was "TecSAR", the radar satellite (Ofeq 8, 2008, note). This week two Israeli nanosatellites were launched in India by a PSLV rocket. One was "BGUSat" from Ben Gurion University, the other comes from a start-up company called "SpacePharma"(Headquarter is in Switzerland, a development department is in Israel, the company founder is the Israeli Yossi Yamin, note). This is where an experiment takes place in weightlessness. Mind you: in a nanosatellite, not in the huge space station ISS! This is quite unique and creates opportunities for the pharmaceutical, chemical and biotech industries to be able to carry out experiments in weightlessness much more easily.

Speaking of nanosatellites, i.e. those with a mass of only one to ten kilograms: Israel has always been known for building more or less smaller and lighter satellites. Israel was one of the first countries ever to step on this small building track in space, and today the trend is generally towards small satellites.

It is true that Israel was the first country to build small but good and powerful satellites. In the beginning they were of course larger than nanosatellites, namely in the class of mini satellites (100 to 500 kilograms). I think Israel built small satellites, and later nanosatellites, not necessarily as an end in themselves. You first have to have applications for it or build them for educational purposes, for example in schools and universities. The first nanosatellites, I believe, were built by students (TUBSAT-N and -N1, TU Berlin; 8.5 and three kilograms, respectively, launched in 1998 by a Russian rocket, note) and were active for two years. SpacePharma is a good example of a commercial application for this. Well, in Israel, on the one hand, there was a general downsizing trend, on the other hand, there were certain limitations that we faced that pushed us towards miniaturization and lightweight systems. Today we can proudly say that we are the best when it comes to the weight-to-performance ratio.

Otherwise Japan was always considered a country where everything is made smaller and smaller.

Not in space! I remember when we started Ofeq 3 in 1995, I read in a newspaper that they were in this weight class (In this case about 230 kg, possibly less than 200, note) allegedly could not build anything that would be useful for secret service earth reconnaissance. Well I can't comment on that. Okay: We set the trend.

You played a leading role in the construction of Ofeq 3, especially the optical devices.

Back then I was in industry, at "El-Op", where they did the electro-optics for the Ofeq series.

At the time there were rumors that these cameras could even read license plates on cars in Baghdad and Damascus.

Rumors are always nice. I don't know what to say about it ... (At this point, an Israeli adviser interjects: "Someone spread a mistake at the time. It wasn't about reading license plates, but about counting and identifying cars.")

Well, license plates cannot be read from a height of several hundred kilometers, supposedly for optical-physical reasons, they say that such a high resolution is impossible, it would have to be, say, less than ten or five centimeters, right? (As is known, less than 50 down to allegedly about 30 cm are feasible up to now). So how is it actually with the Ofeqs?

I cannot comment on the image resolution of military satellites. I am the head of Israel's civil space agency.

In 2015 ISA signed a new cooperation agreement with NASA and intensified the cooperation. Now Ilan Ramon, who died together with the rest of the crew in the accident of the space shuttle "Columbia" in 2003 when it shattered when it reentered the atmosphere over Texas, was their first and only astronaut so far. That was 13 years ago this year, why hasn't a second Israeli been in space since then?

Since there were no more shuttles (2011), the flight options are limited. At the moment, space travelers only fly to the ISS, so the countries involved in the space station are not giving up their seats in favor of others. At the time of the shuttles, thanks to the generosity of the Americans, there were more opportunities for countries that are not involved in the ISS to send their people there once. But we are looking for other opportunities and I hope there will be Israeli astronauts again in the future.

Is Israel participating in the ISS in any way, maybe with just a few devices?

No. But we did fly up some experiments.

Do you think the new American "Orion" space capsules, whose propulsion and life support segment is being built by the Europeans, could also take an Israeli to the moon or even to Mars?

That's not an issue at the moment. But we are working on it. And we have a joint project with DLR: It makes human-like dummies that measure the exposure to radiation, and we make radiation protection vests, which were made in Israel not so long ago (from StemRad, note) were developed. During the first unmanned flight of the Orion in 2018, such dolls are to be included, one with and one without a vest. But there is still no contract with NASA. If it turns out that such vests are advantageous in space, they could also fly on manned missions.

Is there any other cooperation with NASA?

We not only cooperate, we also offer and compete with others. There is, for example, the joint project of the Weizmann Institute with Caltech / JPL called "Ultrasat", which we proposed to NASA, to be brought into space.

Are there any considerations to offer your "Shavit" rockets, which the Ofeq reconnaissance satellites bring into space, also for commercial flights? Or Israel cannot keep up in the field because its missiles are not heading east With the rotation of the earth, rather against the earth's rotation has to start to the west, because of the neighbors in the east, which however reduces the payload?

Shavit is a defense program. Because the rockets are launched in Israel, they are restricted in the direction of flight and ultimately the inclination of the orbit of the deployed satellites and are therefore not as effective, even in a commercial sense. I know of no intention of starting the Shavit outside of Israel. The rocket is good, but I am also not aware of any study that examines the chances of its commercial use.

There is now Shavit-1 and -2. Is something bigger coming?

Blasberger: I do not know that. In any case: Israel's civil space program has always sought international cooperation because we believe that space travel should be to the benefit of all parties. At ISA, we support industry and start-ups because we believe that more and more private individuals will enter the space arena in technology and services in the near future. Third, we believe that space travel is a good platform for educating young people in science, and not just space-related science. Space is fascinating to young people, and if you introduce them to space, they can be scientists at the end of the day.