Military Technology 05/2021

A typical OFEK-16 satellite image, in this case of the Syrian theatre of operations. Considerable effort is being directed at improving resolution for the imagery output of the satellite series. (Image via author) levels of risk, including high toxicity, chal- lenges in safe transport of components and fuel and the relative difficulty in controlling – or extinguishing – current traditional ro- cket engines. The company’s proprietary gel technology, currently in development, will enable production of a stable, non-toxic rocket propellant that addresses many of these issues while not sacrificing either per- formance or control. Their so-called ‘green propulsion’ technology will combine the ad- vantages of liquid and solid propellants in a new solution. The company stated that the new propellant is safe in both use and transport, adding that it will improve rocket performance and offer pow- erful volumes of thrust than can be precisely controlled and extinguished at need. The gel propulsion technology is designed to meet the most exacting regulatory environment. The company has already completed proof of concept for the proprietary technology, and has identified key ap- plications in the aviation, space and power generation markets. Company sources observed that existing satellite propulsion systems are too ex- pensive and often far too toxic, imposing serious limitations on nano-­ satellite performance. Such restrictions can lead to a dramatic reduction in the anticipated lifespan of a satellite, and can make operating large constellations prohibitively difficult, particularly in very low earth orbits. Israel is undoubtedly in the space arena, already fielding some capa- bilities and with others under development. Only a small part of the na- tion’s defence-related space programmes are in any way public, however. Others, highly classified, are based on the very considerable experience inherent across Israel’s major defence companies. as Head of the Development Directorate in the MoD, responsible for the development of Israel’s most highly classified and advanced military sys- tems. Echoing the above statement, that large constellations of satelli- tes can be very effective in launch detection, he went on to explain that another advantage of the nano-satellite approach is the (relatively) low unit price of the spacecraft. “You go from hundreds of millions of dollars for a full-sized imaging satellite to some millions of dollars when it comes to a nano-satellite,” he stated. Maintaining an Effective Edge Not directly related to the nano-satellite programme, but forming an in- tegral part of Israel’s space effort, IAI has recently inked a teaming agree- ment with startup company Effective Space in order to better manage on-orbit spacecraft. Under the technical and financial cooperation agree- ment, Effective Space will order from IAI a fleet of maintenance satellites, each weighing less than 880lbs and capable of servicing other satellites in space. The average life span of a communications satellite is 15 years. The end of its service life normally occurs when it runs out of the hydrazine gas it uses to assist it in maintaining orbit. Effective Space is developing a technology that will enable an appropriately equipped maintenance sa- tellite to attach itself to the orbiting spacecraft and serve to maintain it in orbit by using its own onboard supplies of hydrazine. Lsst year, Astroscale (a Japan-based conglomerate with significant operations in the US, UK and Singapore) acquired the intellectual proper- ty and other assets of Effective Space and hired selected staff, including Arie Halsband, the company’s founder, who now acts as managing direc- tor of Astroscale Israel. At the time of writing, an initial test satellite has already been launched. Proprietary Propellants Israel will continue to receive warnings from US space sensors, but definitely aspires to having its own system that can detect emerging long-range hostile activity without needing recourse to any other nation. The ‘across the board’ effort to put large numbers of satellites in orbit to achieve this aim is also giving rise to a number of other innovative programmes. One Israeli company, for example, is developing a gel-based propellant that will change the way rockets and satellites are currently operated. The company – New Rocket – believes that conventional rocket engine tech- nology – using either solid or liquid propellants – is fraught with multiple With a wealth of experience and close connections with official sources, Arie Egozi reports from Israel on a broad range of national and regional defence issues. Military Space MT 5/2021 · Special Supplement · 43 OFEK-16 was launched in July 2020, carrying an advanced EO payload that will allow for monitoring of Iran’s ballistic missile programme, for instance. (Photo via author) f