Page 18 - Australian Defence Magazine - July 2018
P. 18

Israeli space
As the government creates the long awaited national space agency, Australia could well look to Israel as an example of
a small nation with a vigorous and innovative space business.
ISRAEL came to space far later than Aus- tralia. Australia hosted the post-WWII British rocket test program and at peak the Woomera test range was second busiest launch facility in the world.
In 1967, Australia became only the third nation on earth to design, build and then launch its own satellite. Called WRE- SAT, this research satellite departed from Woomera atop a US Redstone rocket.
Then Australia squandered the opportu- nity to go it alone on developing a national space industry. There are pockets of excel- lence in space technology and Australia makes extensive use of space services.
But for an advanced nation, a domes- tic space industry has failed to flourish and that’s been attributed to absence of a guiding agency. The new Australian Space Agency officially starts up on July 1 with former CSIRO head Dr Megan Clark as inaugural head.
Israel’s entry to the space business dates from 1979 and the signing of the peace agreement with Egypt.
“It was started by Ministry of Defence with the objective of allowing Israel to retain
strategic depth, even after the return of the Sinai with the peace agreement with Egypt,” Yehiel Shalev, the Australian-born director of observation satellites for Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said. “There were listening stations there. We had to maintain our intel- ligence gathering capabilities and this was the starting point for the Israeli space program.
“Our specialty is very high resolution high performance observation satellites. We also manufacture satellites, we do nano-satellites and we are doing a lunar lander right now.”
A lunar lander? Yes, Israel plans to follow the US, Russia and China in soft landing a probe onto the lunar surface.
That started with the 2007 Google Lu- nar X Prize, which offered US$20 million to the first private venture to land a robotic probe on the moon, travel 500 metres and transmit high definition stills and video back to earth. There were smaller prizes for second and third.
A large number of contenders were in- terested. Despite a number of extensions, no-one had booked a launch before the fi- nal deadline of March 31 this year and the contest was called off.
However Israel still plans to proceed and launch on a US rocket by the end of year. The Israeli venture is called SpaceIL, a non- profit funded mostly by philanthropists and involving companies, universities and a very large number of students.
“We are providing engineering support and facilities for testing. At the moment we are waiting for delivery of parts. There are some things we are buying overseas,” Shalev said. “We are going to put this thing on the moon. It is supposed to launched this December. We have a piggy-back launch on Falcon 9 Space X launcher together with another satellite.
“This is really an educational exercise. We have a lot of high school students and young people we are trying to get into the space business are involved. It is like a com- munity service.”
This is a very expensive community ser- vice, on one report costing around US$70 million. But Israel didn’t embark on a space program to launch satellites for educational or scientific reasons, though it has done plen- ty. It did so to keep an eye on the neighbours.
Israel had an early interest in space. In 1960 the government established the na- tional Committee for Space Research to examine what was possible. This was an era when ICBMs were the ultimate weapon and Israel developed its own rocket and launch capability.
The need for intelligence on neighbour- ing nations became more pressing follow- ing the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The same
18 | July 2018 |

   16   17   18   19   20