In a feature published by The Jerusalem Post by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich reports that a group of three smallsats developed by scientists from Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will be the first autonomous spacecraft in the world to be flown in formation.
The project, developed with the support of the Adelis-Samson Foundation and the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) in the Science and Technology Ministry, will be launched on the Indian launcher PSLV at the end of 2018 by the Dutch company Innovative Solutions In Space, which specializes in launching nano-satellites.
The project has been developed by a team of researchers headed by Professor Pini Gurfil, head of the Asher Institute for Space Research and a member of the aerospace engineering faculty at the Technion. The project is designed to prove that a combination of satellites can hold together in a controlled formation for a year some 600 kilometers above Earth. A successful small model of the smallsats also exist at the Technion.
“Israeli technology is breaking boundaries and proving its innovation again and again,” commented Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis on Monday. “We are proud to be part of this flagship project, which is a significant contribution to the advancement of space in Israel and to the training of students in the field.”
The satellites will be used to receive signals from Earth and calculate the location of the source of the broadcast for rescue, detection, remote sensing and environmental monitoring. Each of the smallsats is 10 cm. x 20 cm. x 30 cm. — about the size of a shoebox — and weighs about eight kg. They will be equipped with measuring devices, antennas, computer and control systems and navigation devices. The software and algorithms that will control the flight were developed in a laboratory for distributed space systems at the Technion.
“Miniaturization in the field of satellites, together with advanced Israeli technology, allows us to take Israel an important step forward with mini-satellites,” explained Gurfil. “The degree of innovation of nano-satellites can be compared to switching from a PC to a mobile phone, which offers far more capabilities than its predecessors.”
“The field of nanosciences has been increasing significantly in recent years and the number of launches doubles every year,” added ISA director Avi Blasberger. “The development and launch costs of such satellites, capable of filling a variety of uses, are significantly lower than those of conventional satellites... In the near future, networks are expected to include thousands of nano-satellites that will cover the Earth and enable high-speed Internet communications at a significantly lower cost than today.”
The unique features of the satellites are all locally produced. Rafael’s krypton gas-based propulsion system will be the first of its kind in the world to fly a tiny satellite. The digital receiver was developed by Elta and the guidance control system was developed at the Israel Aircraft Industries’ Mabat plant in cooperation with the Technion researchers.
In addition to the propulsion system, the satellites will accumulate energy through solar panels that will be spread out alongside each satellite and serve as wings that will be able to control the flight of the nano-satellites’ structures without the use of fuel through air resistance in the atmosphere.
The dynamic small satellite industry is going to be intensely examined at the upcoming SmallSat Symposium in Silicon Valley, California, from February 5 through 8 — this is THE event for anyone involved, or interested, in the smallsat environs. To learn more, please access smallsatshow.com/.