Space agency aims for new heights

Space agency aims for new heights

With a new director and more funding, satellite builders shoot for billions in sales

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The launch of Israeli military satellite "Ofek 9", (photo credit: by Ministry of Defence/Flash90)
The launch of Israeli military satellite "Ofek 9", (photo credit: by Ministry of Defence/Flash90)

The Israel Space Agency can reach sales of $1 billion a year within five years, its chairman said at a news conference on Sunday.

The press conference was held to announce the appointment of a new director, Menahem Kidron, who will take over in February, and a government funding pledge of up to NIS 360 million over the next two years to be used for research and development.

ISA’s current chairman Yitzhak ben Yisrael predicted that agency successes would spur an increase in funding to an annual NIS 300 million. With that kind of backing, Israel could be making civilian space technology sales worth $3 billion over the next three years and reaching a steady $1 billion a year in five years’ time, he said.

“Once we reach $1 billion a year we won’t need any more funding,” ben Yisrael declared, and added that while the US and France were the traditional markets for space technology, Israel would be looking at potential customers all over Europe, including Russia, as well as India.

“There are no countries today that don’t need satellites,” he said.

Incoming director Kidron said he sees the space program as a venture that needs to show results, just like any other business.

“We need to direct the tremendous resources we have to make the invested projects profitable,” said Kidron, who, since 2009, was the head of space systems at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The new funding will be divided between academic institutions, international partners and local start-ups. Kidron said that academic investment is important in order to counter the brain-drain caused by lucrative job offers overseas. “If we want to advance the space industry we need the people to do it,” he said.

Israel has developed a series of satellite programs since the 1980s, specializing in relatively small satellites of under 100 kilograms in weight, which are cheaper to produce. In 1988 Israel become the eighth country in the world capable of launching a satellite on its own.


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