Israel is set to launch the world’s first autonomous nanosatellites to be flown in controlled formation towards the end of 2018.
The satellites were developed at the Asher Institute for Space Research at the Technion University in Haifa in coordination with Israel’s Science and Technology Ministry and the Israel Space Agency. The projected was funded by the Adelis-Samson Foundation and is led by Prof. Pini Gurfil of the Technion.
The satellites’ components were all developed in Israel by companies such as Rafael and Elta and will powered by both solar panels and its propulsion systems.
Each of the three satellites to be launched is reportedly 10 cm. x 20 cm. x 30 cm. and weigh 8 kilograms. The satellites are to be launched into space by the Indian launcher PSLV, a goal of the mission to “demonstrate long-term autonomous cluster flight of multiple satellites” through the use of algorithms and software, as well as formation flying of nanosatellites.
According to a press release from the Asher Institute, “The three satellites will be launched together with approximately the same semimajor axis, eccentricity and inclination and separated in orbit to for a cluster with relative distance,” and “will perform autonomous relative orbital element corrections using a cold-gas propulsion system to satisfy the relative distance constraints.”
Prof. Gurfil addressed the of vast opportunities for Israel and science if formation flying of nanosatellites was possible, stating, “this will enhance the development of small satellites and miniaturization technologies, efficient processing in space and propulsion systems in space. The airborne technologies on the nanosatellites will contribute to a vast array of civilian applications and to the advancement of Israel’s space industry”.
Israel successfully launched a nanosatellite into space in February of last year. The project was carried out Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev in cooperation with Israel’ Space Agency. Data from the satellites is being used for research purposes at the university.
In August of 2017, Israel made history when it sent the world’s smallest environmental research satellite, Venis, into space. Venus stands for “Vegetation and Environment Monitoring on a New Micro Satellite” and the satellite collects data to help scientists study earth’s agriculture and ecology, as well as issues such as desertification, pollution and natural disasters.
The satellite can operate at 12 different wavelengths and rotates the earth 29 times in 48 hours. It takes photos and collects data from the same locations over the next few years, collecting data on temperatures, soil and water to allow scientists to study changes in the environment. The nanosatellites in 2018 will also collect data for research and calculations in environmental monitoring and detection.
Nanosatellites are revolutionizing space technologies, as they are cheaper to develop and launch. Israel is currently at the forefront of nanosatellite research and production.
This article originally appeared on Behold Israel, January 2, 2018, and reposted with permission.