Israel has launched an environmental research satellite that will survey ecological factors such as soil, vegetation, forestry and water quality and will provide agriculturalists valuable information on what crops and trees to plant and when.
Launched on Aug. 2 from the Kouru spaceport on French Guiana, the satellite was built in Israel by Israel Aerospace Industries. The launch was a joint collaboration between the Israeli and French space agencies.
The small satellite weighs 265 kg. and has been named VENUS, an acronym for Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New (µ) Micro-Satellite. There are currently some 300 research satellites in orbit that were launched from around the world, but this is the first be sent by Israel. It is considered the smallest of its kind.
Venus will circle the earth 29 times in 48 hours and take photos that will each cover 730 square kilometers. In so doing the satellite will monitor and record conditions such as the presence of pests and pollution, scarcity of water, desertification and forest fires. It will remain in commission for four and half years.
In monitoring Israel, Venus will focus on taking pictures of the land in the Galilee, the coastal plain, and the Negev desert. The satellite’s high resolution cameras will enable “precision agriculture” by which farmers can plan their crop rotations on the basis of such things as water availability and richness of soil.
The photos and information that Venus provides will also be used by researchers and government agencies.