The Israel Nano-satellite Association (INSA) is planning to launch two small satellites sometime between July and September 2009, most likely from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, India. "This will be a proof-of-concept for new Israeli satellite technologies," said Dr Raz Tamir, head of INSA and Israel Aerospace Industries-MBT's newly launched nanosatellite department.
The launch is also intended to make a case for the nanosatellite as a cost-effective alternative to the larger GPS versions. Nanosatellites are small satellites with a mass of between one and 10 kg (2.2-22 lb), designed to work in formation. A constellation of 60 low-earth orbit (LEO) nanosats can cover the earth. They are also cheap to build and launch.
Because of its light weight several nanosatellites can be launched at a time bringing launch costs down to about $150,000 per satellite. This compares to $15 million per launch of a single regular-sized LEO satellite.
Though Boeing is the only large aerospace company to have actually built and launched a test-bed nanosatellite, no constellation of such satellites has yet been launched into orbit. This is something that INSA plans to change.
After a 10 month study, INSA arrived at the conclusion that the earth's current GPS system could be replaced by nanosatellites. This finding immediately drew attention from two aerospace companies, which offered to help. Subsequently it was decided to build two nano-satellites.
Several companies are now ready to test their technologies in space aboard the INSA nanosats. These include US/UK batteries manufacturer ABSL Power Solutions, which supplied the lithium-ion cells, the Jerusalem-based ROKAR International of the BAE Systems group, which provided a new type of GPS navigation system and AccuBeat, also of Jerusalem, which is providing an atomic clock.
In addition, the advanced onboard computer will deploy a new VLSI/ASIC semiconductor developed at the Technion."We hope that these chips will be integrated in all future Israeli satellites," said Raz.
According to INSA scientists, moving early on a technology is very important because the space industry is very traditional. They point out that it usually takes 10 to 15 years for a new technology to enter, which is the reason why the space shuttle's onboard computers are 486s - not even Pentiums.