First Israeli research nanosatellite, which will be launched into space on February 15, will end a five year joint project between Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The nanosatellite BGUSAT, is a little bit larger than a milk carton — 10x10x30 centimeters (4x4x12 inches) and weighing just five kilograms (11 lbs) – is outfitted with innovative new cameras that can detect climate phenomena and a guidance system that lets the operators choose the areas to shoot and research through a dedicated ground station at BGU.
It is the first time any Israeli university will have access to data from an Israeli nanosatellite for research purposes.
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Its unique orbital path close to Earth’s atmosphere will enable BGU and TAU researchers to study scientific phenomena such as the Earth airglow layer.
BGUSAT’s innovative cameras will allow researchers to position the satellite to take a variety of pictures from different angles each orbit if so desired, rather than having to maintain a single shooting angle every orbit.
Through the BGUSAT cameras, researchers will also be able to track atmospheric gases like CO2 in order to understand climate change, to examine changes in ground moisture that could be an indicator of desertification and affect agricultural development, and to monitor plant development in different regions.
Construction of the satellite began two years ago at IAI’s space division.
“This is another step in advancing cooperation between the government, industry and academia in order to promote the Israeli space industry,” Science Minister Ofir Akunis said in the statement. “Only such a collaboration with government backing will preserve the Israeli space industry’s global standing, and will promote research, create new jobs, all while safeguarding the essential interests of Israel.”
Nanosatellites are a new tool for academic scientific research, enabling space engineering and space research at prices that are affordable for academia, said Prof. Dan Blumberg, BGU’s VP and dean for R&D. “The reduced costs allow academia to assume a much more active role in the field taking advantage of the innovation and initiative of researchers and students,” he said in the statement.
Since large satellites are so expensive, not many risks can be taken that might jeopardize their mission, making satellite engineering walk a tightrope between being conservative and innovative. Since nanosatellites are cheaper, they offer a larger arena for space innovation, the statement said.
“This new project opens up the world of nanosatellites to new and varied scientific missions,” said Col. (res.) Ofer Doron, head of IAI’s MBT Space Division. “For the first time, a dedicated computer with computing power similar to those of the larger satellites, but developed specifically for nanosatellites by the space division, has been installed.”
BGU students participate the project with researchers who worked on the BGUSAT integrated knowledge from a variety of fields such as software engineering, electrical engineering, planetary sciences, industrial engineering and management and more.
The goal is to be able to build a nanosatellite from scratch “in-house.”
Following the satellite’s launch, the Israel Space Agency has allocated an additional 1 million shekels to fund future research based on the data received from the satellite and has sent out a call for proposals. BGU and TAU have already submitted a joint proposal to study Earth’s airglow layer.
“We expect challenging ideas from the Israeli research community,” said Avi Belsberger, director of the Israel Space Agency. This is the first time that researchers will have the opportunity to receive information directly from an Israeli satellite, without having to go through other countries or research agencies, he said.