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OUTER SPACE -- CLEAN UP YOUR ACT (Article by Amnon Barzilai, "Ha'aretz", July 28, 1998, p. B3) The defense establishment is investing in space. Israel will develop, produce and sell launchers and satellite technology for the civilian market, and the profits will be used to promote military capabilities. In recent months, a special team, headed by Colonel (res.) Dr. Aviam Sela, has been analyzing the Ofek-4 launch failure in January. The team has returned with its findings and conclusions. It is reasonable to assume that the lessons will be implemented in advance of the launch of the next photoreconnaissance satellite, and will influence the size of the launcher, the weight of the satellite payload and photographic capabilities. It is not clear when the next launch will be. "Call me back in six months," said a senior defense official when asked about it. Meanwhile, the consolation is the unexpected longevity of Ofek-3 (Ofek-3 weighs 250 kgs.). Since it was launched in April 1995, Israel's first photoreconnaissance satellite continues to travel in low-earth orbit "against the laws of physics," according to one of the experts in the field. The satellite sends excellent black-and-white photographs. But what will happen when Ofek-3 ends its life, as can be expected to happen? Two Routes In the 1980s there was still considerable debate whether to enter the aerospace field at all. But today, says Professor Alon Ganei, one of the Technion's senior researchers of rocket propulsion, the process cannot be stopped. Israel, says Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, has penetrated space and has no intention of leaving. Defense Ministry Director-General Ilan Biran concurs. In effect, Israel will try to move along two routes which cannot be easily separated; both are being managed by the same defense industries under Biran's close supervision. One is the development of civilian capabilities. The professional authority, the Director of Defense R&D and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT) Major-General Dr. Yitzhak Ben-Israel, operates alongside Biran. In the past year, Air Force Commander Major-General Eitan Ben-Eliyahu is the main factor in the IDF which is trying to push, raise awareness and accelerate the entry into space. Ben Eliyahu would be happy to receive the responsibility for operations in space. He would like to follow in the footsteps of the United States Air Force and guarantee that he become Israel's first "Air and Space Force" commander. Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), the main contractor for developing launchers and satellites, is also interested to become the main factor determining priorities in the field. But for now, control and supervision remains in the hands of Director-General Biran and by the Space Directorate of MAFAT. For IAI to influence space planning, it would have to show impressive commercial successes. A chance for this has recently opened. The Blacklist Better late than never, say the optimists in the industry on the recent agreement reached with Biran. For the past four years, he directed a stubborn battle over the establishment of a company that would produce photoreconnaissance satellites for commercial purposes - - an outgrowth of Ofek-3. The idea-man, businessman Steve Wilson, owner of West Indies Space Ltd., offered to market high resolution photo-graphs produced by the Israeli satellite to the wide world. The first to express opposition was the United States. After the American opposition was dropped, it became clear that the Defense Ministry refused to permit the use of the technology originally developed for military purposes. At some point, it seems that the Defense Minister dropped its opposition. IAI signed a contract with Wilson and the American investment firm Lehman Brothers which agreed to raise on Wall Street the $80 million needed to build and launch the photo- reconnaissance satellite. The matter was urgent due to the behind-the-scenes competition of Lockheed-Martin, which also wanted to launch a photoreconnaissance satellite for commercial purposes. Then Defense Ministry Director-General David Ivri resigned and Biran was appointed in his stead. Biran wished to study the matter, and made a condition: Prepare a black-list of countries to whom the commercial satellite's photographs would not be sold. Lehman Brothers directors explained that it would not be able to raise the money on the New York Stock Exchange, which is open to everyone, for a company which had prepared a blacklist of customers with whom it was forbidden to trade. But IAI decided to accept Biran's diktat, and is now seeking a new investor. Launcher Problems Israel's space policy is based on the working assumption that Israel would not receive aid for aerospace from any country, not even from its best friend the United States. Rocket propulsion is considered strategic information not to be traded between states. Israel's only chance was to develop an independent capability. The limitations of Israeli satellite launchers is not a secret. The decision to build small launchers was a direct consequence of budgetary limits and the lack of an infrastructure. But the general opinion in the defense establishment is that the liabilities of the 1980s have become commercial advantages at the end of the century. Launch builders differentiate between three type of orbits: Low-earth up to 400 kms; middle-orbits up to 1000 kms; and the third at 35,000 kms. The latter is intended for communications satellites, and their launch requires giant launchers such as the French Ariane-5, which launched Israel's Amos communications satellite. IAI, which manufactures the Amos, decided to build light, low-altitude satellite launchers. Their limitation is that they can carry satellites weighing up to only 250 kgs. In order to cover all the areas desired to be photographed, there have to be dozens of satellites. In addition, the orbit's proximity to the atmosphere ensures a short life-span for satellites. This means repeated investments in building launchers and satellites. However, the low orbit is good for photographic purposes. On 19 September 1988, the Ofek-1 experimental satellite was successfully launched. Now, 10 years later, the desire to stake a claim in space has become fashionable. The relatively low cost of launching small satellites has created an expanding market. Governments, international organizations and research institutions around the world are seeking to launch satellites into space. Today, the talk is of a "niche" for commercial photography satellites for mapping, supplying weather information, preserving the environment and monitoring forests against fires. In fact, two huge companies, in the United States and Europe, are showing great interest in the small satellites that IAI has developed. The Civilian Track On 27 June, an agreement was signed between IAI's Malam factory and the Coleman Research Corporation (CRC), an American concern, for producing small satellite launchers. According to the joint announcement, the agreement will enable the American company to produce such a launcher for use in the American market. The launcher will integrate the technology of the Shavit launcher, which sent the Ofek satellites into space. According to foreign reports, Shavit launchers are the civilian derivative of the Jericho II ballistic missile, which is also being developed at the Malam missile factory. The agreement signed in the U.S. was achieved after a great deal of lobbying and effort. Five years ago, President Bill Clinton acceded to the late Prime Minister and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin's request, and permitted IAI to sell light launchers in the U.S. However, the American industries were concerned about a competitor and put a spoke in the wheels. The two conditions that made signing the agreement possible were the establishment of a joint company and giving 51% of the company's shares to the Americans. The agreement with the American concern fits in with, and complements, the agreement that was signed several months ago between IAI and the giant European concern Matra Marconi Space (MMS). On the basis of ideas presented to its directors, a joint company -- Leo Link -- was established several months ago to develop satellite launchers. The establishment of the partnership was preceded by a survey which assessed the market's potential in the coming years. An estimate determined, according to which the price of one launch will run between $15-25 million. The idea now taking shape is to build two launchers with the Europeans and the Americans. The first, called LK- 1, will be capable of launching one or more satellites with an overall weight of up to 400 kgs. (nearly twice that of the Shavit), into a low Earth orbit. The second, called LK-2, is larger. It will be based on a large, heavy commercial American engine, and will have a lifting capacity of 1,000 kgs. The two launcher programs will compete with rocket manufacturer Lockheed Martin for the small satellite market. The attempt now being made, to get a strong foothold in space through commercial agreements, is different from the effort that was made in the 1980s. Then, Israeli industry mobilized in order to develop a unique military capability in the space field. Today, the trend is reversed. The defense industries are attempting to sell the international civilian market the know-how and experience that they have acquired in building military technologies. With the help of profits, they will develop the next generation of products, with the cycle hopefully repeating itself. Raviv's Return In recent months, a new-old player has been trying to return to the Israeli space industry. The "father of the Arrow missile," Dov Raviv, the man who developed the Shavit, the IAI's missile launcher, is planning a new and ambitious project. Six years after he resigned from managing Malam, Raviv is presenting a plan for building a huge satellite launcher. It would be 50 meters tall and have a lifting capacity dozens of times greater than that of the Shavit. Raviv set up a company in the U.S., but he intends to build the satellite launcher in Israel, together with IAI and TAAS-Israel Industries. Defense industry managers who examined Raviv's plan were astounded by its daring. Raviv claims that his satellite launcher is easily capable of competing with the Ariane 5, but that it will be built at a much lower cost. The Ariane 5's lifting capacity is about 18 tons. The launcher planned by Raviv would also be able to lift communications satellites to an altitude of 35,000 kms. Opinion is divided within the defense establishment regarding Raviv's plan. Is it a dream or an attack of megalomania? The Defense Ministry has announced unequivocally that it will not go with Raviv's plan. IAI president Moshe Keret stated that he would agree to join the project, but not as an investor. Yitzhak Kaul, president of Clal, examined Raviv's proposal, but was dissuaded by the negative response of his board of directors. To potential investors, Raviv claimed that only several dozen million dollars is needed for the initial development stage, and that in the second stage he will go to the stock market. This is a minuscule sum in comparison with the promising result. In the meantime, no investor has come forward. . ===================================================================== Information Division, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem Mail all Queries to ask@israel-info.gov.il URL: http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il gopher://israel-info.gov.il ===================================================================== Note: The translations of articles from the Hebrew press are prepared by the Government Press Office as a service to foreign journalists in Israel. They express the views of the authors. --------------------------------------------------------





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