JERUSALEM – Israel successfully launched its VENUS satellite, its first spatial environmental research vehicle designed for orbital monitoring of Earth’s vegetation, according to an Israel Space Agency statement on Wednesday.
The VENUS satellite (Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Micro-Satellite) is an earth-observation micro-satellite designed jointly by Israel’s agency and France’s National Center for Space Studies (CNES).
Venus has a dual mission: one scientific and the other technological.
The scientific mission will monitor Earth’s vegetation using a camera capable of recording 12 narrow spectral bands.
The technological mission will test the operation of an innovative electric propulsion system based on the Israeli-designed Hall Effect Thrusters.
A Hall-effect thruster (HET) is a relatively low power device used to propel some spacecraft after entering orbit or farther out into space.
Thrust is possible as positive ions and electrons trapped in the hall effect-magnetic field are ejected from the thruster as a quasineutral plasma, thus creating thrust.
VENUS’ launch took place on board an Arianespace Vega launcher from Kourou, French Guyana, in a joint project between ISA and France’s space agency CNES, and will be inserted into a near polar sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 720 kilometers with a two-day flyover revisiting time.
“We are proud to be in the forefront of the space technology and take part in the Venus scientific mission,” said Joseph Weiss, IAI’s President and CEO, adding that the completion of the tests undertaken by IAI was a crucial step towards Wednesday’s launch, enabling scientists around the world to investigate Earth’s natural resources.
The microsatellite, which weighed 265 kilograms on launch, will send high-resolution photos to track climate change and aid efforts to tackle desertification, erosion, and pollution.
This first Israeli satellite will also be used for agricultural and environmental research with its innovative electric propulsion system allowing it to navigate more accurately than other satellites, according to ISA.
Venus will circle the planet 29 times every 48 hours and will remain in service for four and a half years, after which it will be parked into a lower orbit.
The first photos of the satellite are expected some five hours after the launch, but will only be available to researchers next November.
In addition, another Israeli-manufactured satellite was launched on Wednesday on a reconnaissance mission capable of taking very high-resolution images.
ISA is part of the Israeli ministry of science and technology, which has invested around $1.3 billion in research projects related to this satellite.
IAI Ltd., the satellite’s leading tester and systems supplier, is Israel’s largest aerospace and defense company specializing in developing and manufacturing advanced, state-of-the-art systems for space, air, sea, land, cyber and homeland security.