Historic First: Israel launches three Autonomous Nano-Satellites Flying in Formation

And Hashem set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.

Genesis

1:

17

(the israel bible)

March 22, 2021

5 min read

For the first time, three Israeli mini-satellites were launched simultaneously on Monday morning, March 22. The Adelis-SAMSON project from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology involves three autonomous nano-satellites requiring only a tiny amount of fuel that are flying in formation and will monitor Earth from space

They are three of 38 small satellites and cube satellites from 18 countries launched on the Soyuz2.1a rocket aboard a Glavkosmos missile of GK Launch Services (a subsidiary of ROSCOSMOS State Space Corporation). But the Israeli nano-satellites are unique. 

Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan, Technion vice president and CEO Boaz Golani and head of the Asher Institute for Space Research Prof. Yoram Rosen with Prof. Pini Gurfil and the team of researchers: Avner Keidar, Hobik Aglarian, Dr. Vladimir Belnov, Eviatar Edelerman, Yaron Oz, Maxim Rubanovich, Margarita Shamis, Yulia Kanievsky, Tzachi Ezra and Dr. Alex Fried (Technion)

All the unique features of the Israeli satellites were developed and produced in this country in an unusual collaboration between academia and industry. Among these are a special propulsion system, based on krypton gas – the first of its kind in the world to be operated on a tiny satellite. The digital receiver and directional control system were developed by Israel Aircraft Industries in collaboration with Technion researchers. In addition to the propulsion system, the satellites will accumulate energy through solar panels that will be deployed next to each satellite and will serve as wings that will control, if necessary, the flight of the building without the use of fuel, using air resistance in the atmosphere. 

On each of the nano-satellites was assembled a digital receiver, one of the most complex receivers ever designed in a nano-satellite. The system for processing the information on the satellite and the algorithms that will keep the building flying will be among the first of its kind in the world, and will support the autonomous operation of several satellites simultaneously. The navigation system will include two GPS receivers that will be used for autonomous navigation. The communication systems through which the three nano-satellites will communicate with each other and with the ground station will be operated at three different frequencies – a significant challenge solved in the current project. A dedicated frequency will be used to transmit information to the Earth in broadband.

Satellite control and propulsion systems are also a technological innovation; To save fuel, satellites are aided by two natural forces – gravity and atmospheric resistance – and thus propel themselves. In this way they need a small amount of fuel, less than a gram of fuel per day per satellite. This achievement is the result of a decade of research that preceded the launch.

The rocket took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – the world’’s first spaceport and the first site to send humans into space (cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in April 1961.  The project was developed with the support of the Adlis Foundation, the Goldstein Foundation and the Israel Space Agency in the countries Ministry of Science, Technology and Aerospace.

Technion president Prof. Uri Sivan said with excitement: “Every time you look at the sky, remember that the Technion has returned to space! The Adlis-Samson project is a wonderful and exciting example of a successful combination of science and technology and the translation of innovative ideas into effective systems that contribute to humanity,” declared Sivan. “Scientific and technological breakthroughs today require multidisciplinary research and close cooperation between academia and industry, and these are the components that led the project to this important day. This is an exciting and formative moment for the Technion and the State of Israel.”

Four hours and 20 minutes after the launch, the Adlis-Samson satellites enters orbit, and after another 30 minutes, they “wake up” and begin operating their systems. Soon after, the first communication with the control center at the Technion is expected.

Staff at the Control Center in the Technion’s Asher Institute for Space Research sat and closely followed the live broadcast from Kazakhstan. They included Sivan, Technion vice president and CEO Prof. Boaz Golani, vice president for foreign relations and resource development Prof. Alon Wolf, head of the Asher institute for Space Research Prof. Yoram Rosen and the people who have accompanied the project since its inception, headed by Prof. Pini Gurfil of the Asher Institute.

“This morning’s launch was accompanied by tremendous excitement,” said Gurfil, a faculty member in the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. “This is a long-standing basic study combined with advanced Israeli technology. It allows us to take Israel an important step forward in the field of miniature satellites. We can compare the degree of innovation of nano-satellites to the transition from computer to mobile phone. The Adlis-Samson project demonstrates a new concept in nano-satellites.  It will enable many operations that have hitherto been reserved for large and expensive satellites, a leap in the capabilities of the Technion and the State of Israel as a whole in the field of tiny satellites, and will make the Technion a global pioneer in location and communication, with diverse applications including missing, rescue and remote sensing and environmental monitoring.” 

The tiny formation of satellites is moving in space in an autonomous structure flight, that is, they move in coordination with each other without the need for guidance from the ground. They will be used to calculate the location of radiating sources on Earth, a technology that will be applied in locating people, planes and ships. Each of the three satellites weighs about only eight kilograms. Measuring devices, antennas, computer systems, control systems, navigation devices and a unique and innovative propulsion system were installed on each satellite. 

The satellites are moving together 600 kilometers above the ground and detect, with highly accurate signals on Earth. The signals will be transmitted to a special mission control center built at the Technion. 

The current launch continues a Technion tradition that began in 1998 with the successful launch of the Gurwin-Techsat II microsatellite, which has been in space for more than 11 years – a record time for academic activity in space. “The launch of Adlis-Samson is a dramatic moment that we have been waiting for nine years, and we will follow it closely,” I sincerely thank our partners in this project,” said Sivan.

“The field of nano-satellites has been in significant momentum in recent years and the number of launches is growing every year,” commented Avi Blasberger, director of the Israel Space Agency. “The cost of developing and launching such satellites, capable of performing a variety of uses, is significantly lower than those of ordinary satellites produced by a small number of other countries. In the near future, networks are expected to include thousands of nano-satellites that will cover the Earth and allow significantly faster high-speed Internet communications. This will be demonstrated on Samson’s satellites.”

“We see great importance in the collaboration with the Technion in promoting academic research and future technologies in the field of space,” said IAI chief executive officer Boaz Levy. “IAI is the center of gravity in the field and sees connection to academia as an added value in business and technology that will lead to the continued innovation and leadership of Israel in the field of space. The joint work leads to the further development of the entire ecosystem and the aerospace industry is proud to join forces in this innovative and groundbreaking project.”

“For many years, there has been a widespread belief that space technologies – and space itself – are the domain of leading economic powers; that they are more complicated, larger and more expensive than the capabilities of ordinary countries,” concluded Rebecca Buchris, a member of the Adelis Foundation. “Israel has proved this wrong, and today, there is no doubt that this small country is a member of the small circle of space powers, thanks to the rapid development of the space industry in Israel. Adlis-Samson is a unique project that embodies the Israeli spirit, power and intellectual resources of the State of Israel. It expresses its technological and scientific strengths and places it on the world map in the fields of aerospace, all on a modest budget and in an academic environment. The Adlis Foundation sees itself as a body that sows the seeds of the future and hopes this project will be the first of many.”

 

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