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View From Space To Keep Israel Safe

Israel overcomes geographic limitations to its security, defense and scientific endeavors by reaching for the sky-space, in particular-with upgraded and innovative new satellite technologies.

With limited land mass, the country of Israel must look to space to help gird its defensive capabilities. The nation's interest in military space is obvious-to optimize battlefield and security effectiveness using space-based assets. The head of the Israeli Air Force Space Branch is Lt. Col. Oren Barda, IAF. He notes why Israel considers space to be critical to international security:

First, we must stand guard for any possible threats. Space enables long-range surveillance, space enables working in neutral territory, and space is a technology and economic booster to industry.

These reasons, along with technologies being employed, are explored by Adam Baddeley in his article, "Israel Exploits Space Technologies, Capabilities," in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine. Political trends both worldwide and regional influence Israel's space requirements for defense and security. Thus, remote sensing and communications satellites continue to be crucial to that nation's goals. Long-range strategic threats by states and nonstate organizations, both global and local, are evolving. This demands the development of advances such as the hyperspectral Ground Moving Target Indicator and Moving Target Indicator. Both operate in all weather, day and night, to counter operations by opponents using mobility, stealth and camouflage, coupled with subterranean activities to escape detection. Israel's space-based security requires the full range of synthetic aperture radar, infrared and hyperspectral sensors, and the ability to launch on demand to various orbits and inclinations. This calls for production of high-quality reconnaissance with high resolution and extended area coverage. Israel has used the Shavit launch vehicle family. The nation's space capability began with Ofeq 1 and 2 satellites. Ofeq 3 was launched in 1995 and became Israel's first operational Earth observation satellite. The second-generation system began with Ofeq 5, and the latest, Ofeq 9, launched in June 2010. Altogether, these satellites provide multiple visits to an area of interest and the ability to image multiple targets in each passing. Israel's TecSAR 1 satellite, operational since 2008, provides 150,000 fine-resolution images annually with 30 per orbit. New satellites are slated for future launch: TecSAR II; Israel's third-generation Earth observation satellite OptSat 3000; and the Amos 4 communications satellite. Microsats and an aerial launch capability also will be added. In a scientific endeavor, Israel has joined with France on the Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro-Satellite, or VENUS, for S&T missions. Two main evolutions have taken place in Israel's space program over the years. The first was developing a single bus for its satellites. The third-generation satellite systems will contain a multipurpose common bus featuring a dry weight of 190 kilograms across OptSat 3000, TecSAR II and VENUS. The second evolution is the establishment of a unified ground station, which consists of one station for all low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites, and a backup station. The station is used for tracking, command and control downlinks and data dissemination. Israel's future space capabilities structure is now formalized, but the underlying strategic vision calls for an architecture based on three levels: microsats, LEO and geostationary (GEO) satellites. Col. Barda says Israel also seeks greater cooperation in space, in addition to and beyond the VENUS endeavor:

From the Israeli perspective, we believe that there are many opportunities in space for international cooperation.

Possibilities include sharing launch capability and launch sites, which will provide mutual backup of assets, a combined asset base among allies, and sharing of space situational awareness.