The Space Race in the Middle East: Col. (Res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, JNS, February 25, 2019 — A team of Israeli scientists launched what will be the first privately funded mission to land on the moon on Feb. 22, 2019.
Space: Israel’s Final Frontier: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2019 — Space is exciting,” says Opher Doron, when describing the look on the faces of kids who visit Israel Aerospace Industries to learn about how Israel is pioneering in the great unknown. “It’s a big wow,” for them.
Did You Know Israel Sent A Rocket Into Space in 1961?: Rachel Neiman Israel 21C, February 26, 2019 — Israelis were bursting with pride on Friday, February 22, 2019, when the first “blue-and-white” spacecraft successfully blasted off in the first ever privately-funded Moon mission.
Outer Space Tech Used By Israeli Startup To Find Water Leaks On Earth: Federico Maccioni, The Times of Israel, Feb. 24, 2019 — Israeli startup Utilis has developed a way to detect leakages of fresh water as it makes its way through the national water infrastructure — by taking a look at the Earth’s surface from outer space, adopting a technology that was originally developed to look for water on Mars and Venus.


Chutzpah, Dreams and Ingenuity Behind Israel’s First Moonshot: Viva Sarah Press, NoCamels, February 18, 2019 — The first Israeli spacecraft to be sent to the moon, Beresheet, will be launched in the early hours (Israel time) of February 22, 2019 from Cape Canaveral Kennedy Space Center in Florida, SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced at a press conference in Ramat Gan on Monday.
Going Where No Israeli Has Gone Before: Erol Araf, Canadian Jewish News, Feb. 12, 2019 — Albert Einstein foresaw as early as 1923 that a future Jewish state would have to rely on science and technology to thrive in a desolate and arid land. Today, that vision has become a reality.
Israel Discusses Joining European Space Agency Under ‘Special Arrangement’: Shoshana Solomon, Times of Israel, Jan. 29, 2019 — Israel and the European Space Agency are discussing ways for Israel to join the agency under a “special arrangement,” the director general of the ESA said Monday.
South Korea to Buy Updated Missile Defense Radar Systems from Israel: Space Daily, Nov 28, 2018 — South Korea is pressing ahead with plans to buy two Israeli early warning radar systems, announcing on Tuesday it would buy the updated Green Pine radars for $292 million.


Col. (Res.) Dr. Shaul Shay

JNS, February 25, 2019

A team of Israeli scientists launched what will be the first privately funded mission to land on the moon on Feb. 22, 2019. The craft, named “Beresheet” (Hebrew for “in the beginning” and the first portion of the Torah) was built by an Israeli nonprofit company called SpaceIL, which raised $100 million for its mission, much of it through philanthropic donations. “Beresheet” was lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Once “Beresheet” touches down, in several weeks in Mare Serenitatis, a basaltic plain on the northern hemisphere of the moon, it will measure the magnetic field of the moon to help understand how it formed.

Israel is the leading force in the regional “space race” and the current “moon mission” will prove a significant milestone, but Israel is not alone and several countries in the region including Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt are developing their own “space programs.”

The Middle East is characterized by conflicts between the regional powers. The space competition is part of the completion for regional dominance and considered as a fundamental component of national security.
Israel and Iran are among only about 10 countries in the world that are capable of building their own satellites, launching them from their territories and maneuvering them in space.


Iran has said that it plans to send two satellites, “Payam” and “Doosti,” into the orbit. On Jan. 15, Iran failed to put into orbit the satellite, “Payam,” after it was unable to reach the required velocity. Iranian Communications Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari said the rocket carrying the satellite “failed to reach the required speed in the third stage, even though it succeeded in the first two stages of the launch.”

On Feb. 6, Iran appears to have attempted a second satellite launch despite U.S. criticism that its space program helps it develop ballistic missiles. Satellite imagery of a space launch center in northern Iran suggests a second attempt to launch a satellite has failed. Satellite images released on Feb. 6 showed a rocket at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran’s Semnan province. Images from next day showed the rocket was gone with what appears to be burn marks on its launch pad. Iran has not acknowledged conducting such a launch.

Iran, which considers its space program a matter of national interest and pride, has said its launches and missile tests were not violations and would continue. On Feb. 16, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif revealed that his country failed again to launch a satellite into space. Speaking to NBC News, he said that it was the second failed attempt in the past two months.

Iran usually displays space achievements in February during the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year’s 40th anniversary comes amid Iran facing increasing pressure from the United States under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that Iran’s plans for sending satellites into orbit demonstrate the country’s defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia

Iran’s adversary, Saudi Arabia, has boosted efforts to expand its space program through the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). Unlike Iran, Riyadh has no budgetary constraints impeding its long-term space ambitions and can rely on the support of the United States, France, China and Russia.

On Feb. 5, Saudi Arabia successfully launched the first Saudi satellite for communications (SGS-1). The satellite was launched by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center on an Ariane 5 rocket… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]



Seth J. Frantzman
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2019

Space is exciting,” says Opher Doron, when describing the look on the faces of kids who visit Israel Aerospace Industries to learn about how Israel is pioneering in the great unknown. “It’s a big wow,” for them. “They are talking about Mars nowadays and exploration, comets, landings. So, space is exciting. It is the ultimate technology. It brings together everything in tech – from physics, engineering and launchers and loaders, you name it and it’s there.”

Today Israel is aiming to be the fourth country to get to the moon. It is also developing nano-satellites – little satellites the size of a milk carton – and Israel is pioneering high-resolution photos from satellites designed specifically to aid environmental research. In an era when space programs in some Western countries seem to be ossifying, Israel is doing what it tends to do best: being innovative and self-sufficient.

Today IAI is celebrating 30 years in space. The origins of the space program begin in the 1980s when Menachem Begin was prime minister. The Israel Space Agency was created in January 1983 under the Science Ministry, which was itself a fledgling ministry. IAI built Israel’s first satellite, the Ofeq-1. The 157-kg. satellite was launched on a Shavit rocket at Palmahim, south of Tel Aviv. It was launched westward because of Israel’s hostile neighbors to the east and entered a low earth orbit, circling the earth every 90 minutes. Israel became the eighth country to put its own satellite into space. “Thirty years is a long time for everything and a good time to look back and forward,” says Doron. Israel has achieved a lot since then. The space sector is booming, he says.

“We have launched a large number of satellites and we have some of the best satellites in the world up in space, providing amazing resolution and fantastic coverage of large areas.” These can provide sharp high-quality images and they are cost effective. In terms of cost and weight, Israel is a world leader, he says.

The satellites Israel has launched have outlived their expected life spans. Some were designed for four years and survived for 15 years. “So, Israel can now look with great detail wherever it needs to look and that is an important part of national strategy. The program achieved not only the goals set out for it in the large picture but also surpassed expectations in quality and number.”

The Ofeq line of reconnaissance satellites that first entered service some 30 years ago is still providing Jerusalem with the best available intelligence. For instance, when the Ofeq-10 entered orbit in April 2014, then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said that it was a testimony to the “impressive ability of the State of Israel to develop and lead on the technological front.” It would improve the State of Israel’s intelligence capabilities, he said, “and enable the defense establishment to better deal with threats that are near and far at any time of the day, in all types of weather.” In September 2016, the Ofeq-11 became the latest of these reconnaissance satellites to enter orbit.

These satellites have had very important real- world implications. When Ofeq-7 blasted into the night sky from Palmahim in June 2007, Reuters noted that the “spy satellite would provide high-quality surveillance over enemies such as Syria and Iran, rivaling the capabilities of the United States.” Soon after its launch, according to the Sunday Times (London), the satellite was diverted from covering Iran to looking at Syria.

“High quality images of a northeastern area every 90 minutes” were soon coming back. It made it “easy for air force specialists to spot the facility.” The facility in question was the al-Kibar site, the nuclear reactor that the Syrian regime was developing. Based on North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor 1 the site was bombed on September 6, 2007, destroying Syria’s plans. On September 7, an Israeli satellite photographed the damaged site. The photos were published only 10 years later, in September 2017, but show clearly the importance of Israel building and launching its own satellites to defend against threats.

IAI’s space division and much of the cutting-edge technology that Israel is working on is housed in a complex in Yehud, not far from Ben-Gurion International Airport. To enter the warehouse where the satellites are housed, one must don a white smock, a head covering and sterile fabric to cover the shoes. Inside an air-conditioned room are a variety of satellites, some of them mock-ups or models. Some of the little nano-satellites, which look like a toy a kid could play with, sit in a case. At the far end of the room, one sees a group of people huddling next to what looks like a lunar lander from the 1960s. And indeed, it is part of Israel’s SpaceIL program at IAI, which, if it reaches the moon, will make Israel the fourth country (after the US, China and Russia) to get there.

It is supposed to be launched at Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Weighing only 600 kilograms, it is not as large as the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, which weighed 4,000 kg. The SpaceIL mission began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which was announced in 2007. For a prize of $30 million, a privately funded team had to land a robot on the moon, and have it travel 500 meters and transmit back images. But by January 2018, it became clear that no team had been able to launch a mission to the moon by the March 2018 deadline and the cash prize offer appeared to be ended.

But SpaceIL decided to keep moving forward. In a July press conference, Morris Kahn, president of the non-profit organization SpaceIL, said that after eight challenging years, “I am filled with pride that the first Israeli spacecraft, which is in its final construction and testing phases, will soon be making its way to the moon.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]



Rachel Neiman
Israel 21C, February 26, 2019

Israelis were bursting with pride on Friday, February 22, 2019, when the first “blue-and-white” spacecraft successfully blasted off in the first ever privately-funded Moon mission. The initiative marks the next step in the Israel Space Agency’s stated goal to “increase Israel’s relative lead in this field and position the country amongst the leading nations involved in space research and its exploitation.”

The notion that this tiny silver of a country could be a leader in space flight and exploration is rooted, in part, with the Israeli Air Force. In September 1948, at the height of the War of Independence and the IAF’s battles against the Egyptian Air Force, the first edition of the IAF magazine featured a United Press article entitled “What Do You Think About Flying to Mars.”

Even before that, the Hebrew – and Yiddish- language periodicals frequently published articles about space exploration, while science fiction inspired children to look to the skies, as in “The Flight to Mars,” a 1947 book by author Yitzhak Avnon about a boy and his dog who flew to the Red Planet in a rocket ship. Early Hebrew-language science-fiction books and games inspired children to look to the skies.

In 1957, in the run-up to the Jewish New Year, children’s weekly magazine Davar Le Yeladim published a story written by “Uri” (Uriel Ofek) with pictures by “Nahum” (the well-known artist and illustrator Nahum Gutman). In doggerel rhyme, the heroes of “Magen David to the Moon,” two young kibbutzniks named Gad and Rami, reflect on the year gone by and wonder how they can “contribute to research.” They hit upon the idea of building a kite that can fly to the Moon. Although some grown-up foreign scientists attempt to compete by launching a rocket, in the end the boys win a gold medal. The heroes of “Magen David to the Moon” build a kite that can fly to the Moon and end up winning a gold medal.

The story became real only a few months later with the October 1957 launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite. Just as this event thrust the United States into high gear to win the space race, so Israel was galvanized into action. The IAF magazine devoted almost its entire December issue to Sputnik.

More significantly, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion expressed interest in space exploration. At the opening of the Knesset’s winter session, with Sputnik three weeks into its orbit, Ben-Gurion said: “There is no doubt that the most important event which took place during the holidays was the successful launch of an artificial moon into the atmosphere by Russian scientists … This perhaps opens up a new era in man’s dominion over cosmic space.”

The Israel Air Force magazine devoted almost its entire December 1957 issue to the Sputnik launch. Ben-Gurion knew that the USSR’s potential to control the skies overhead posed a real threat to Israel, as the Egyptian Air Force had access to advanced technologies from Russia. In addition, Gamal Abdel-Nasser, at that point president of the United Arab Republic (the union of Egypt and Syria from 1958 to 1961) had recruited German rocket scientists– former Nazis– to work on Egypt’s armaments program.

These factors were, in part, the impetus for creating Israel’s space program. In 1960, the National Council for Space Research was established in Israel, headed by Prof. Ernst David Bergmann. On July 5, 1961, the first Israeli missile, the Shavit 2, a two-stage missile for meteorological research, was launched into space from Palmahim Beach… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]



Federico Maccioni
The Times of Israel, Feb. 24, 2019

Israeli startup Utilis has developed a way to detect leakages of fresh water as it makes its way through the national water infrastructure — by taking a look at the Earth’s surface from outer space, adopting a technology that was originally developed to look for water on Mars and Venus.

The World Bank has estimated that 32 billion cubic meters of fresh water are lost every year worldwide, and that the amount of water that gets wasted even before reaching the final customer in the developing world is enough to supply 90 million people with their water needs. The financial costs of such losses are also huge, both for water utilities and the public.

The ability to use SAR (Synthetic-Aperture Radar) to detect water in the ground has been around for a while and universities and research organizations have been trying to use it to identify water on other planets for years. Utilis’ founder and CTO Lauren Guy, who worked on similar projects while pursuing his master’s degree at Ben Gurion University, set out to use this technology for the detection of underground treated water in an urban environment, Utilis CEO Elly Perets said in a phone interview.

Israeli startup Utilis presents water utilities with reports of water leakages in their pipes, with whom it has partnered, Perets said. The raw non-optical images can cover 3,500 square kilometers at once, giving Utilis the ability to access information on water distribution systems that are in place. The technology analyzes the images looking for the spectral signature of water.

Underground water leaks are hard to find. The most common method since the 1970s is to listen to pipes with headsets to detect the noise of underground flowing water, “like a doctor listening to your bloodstream,” Perets said.

This blind search allows water utilities to detect only one to two leaks per week, while Utilis’ diagnostic detection system allows investigation teams to find five to twelve leaks in a day, according to Perets.
The spectral signature can show potable water underground, distinguished from rainwater thanks to its salinity level, as detected by the radar. Also, Utilis’ team is able to tell that the water highlighted by the spectral signature comes from a leaking pipe because it can “identify the interaction between the water and the soil,” Perets explained.

By knowing the position of pipes, Utilis is then able to provide its customers – entities managing water utilities, such as municipalities or private companies paid to perform this task — with online Geographic Information System reports in which the exact locations of possible leakages are overlaid on a map showing streets and pipes. The reports are provided via a web app or Utilis’ app for smartphones, available on both the App Store and Google Play.

Utilis also provides customers with a second app called U-Collect where customers can report their findings from the location of the suspected leak, by uploading photos for documentation or adding personal notes. These inputs are automatically transferred to an online dashboard, where they can be reviewed and additional statistics are presented, Perets said.

“We don’t pay the full price (of water) because through the entire chain, it gets sponsored and costs much less than it should,” he said. However, all this investment can be useless if leaks are not repaired quickly… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]