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The Technion will launch the first autonomous satellite fleet into space

Minister of Science Akunis: "Proof of Israel's strengths". The project was developed with the support of the Adelis Foundation and the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science

Simulation of the satellite fleet. Courtesy of the Technion.
Simulation of the satellite fleet. Courtesy of the Technion.

A fleet of three nanosatellites that will fly in a controlled structure flight for the first time in the world, will be launched into space at the end of 2018 - this is what the Technion and the Israel Space Agency announced today at the Ministry of Science. The satellite fleet will be launched by the Dutch company Innovative Solutions In Space, which specializes in launching nanosatellites, on the Indian PSLV launcher.

The "Adlis-Samson" project (Space Autonomous Mission for Swarming and Geolocating Nanosatellites - SAMSON) was developed in recent years by a team of researchers led by Prof. Finney Gurfil, Head of the Asher Space Research Institute and a faculty member in the Faculty of Aeronautics and Space Engineering at the Technion, with the support of the Adelis Foundation and the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science. The project aims to prove that a satellite rocket can maintain a controlled structure for a year in orbit at an altitude of about 600 km.

"Israeli technology breaks boundaries and repeatedly proves its innovation," says Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis. "We are proud to be part of this flagship project which is a significant contribution to the advancement of the space field in Israel and the training of students in the field."

The satellites will be used to receive signals from the Earth and to calculate the location of the transmission source for the purposes of rescue and rescue, detection and identification, remote sensing and environmental monitoring. The size of each of the satellites is 10x20x30 cm, roughly the size of a shoebox, and their total weight is about 8 kg. Measuring devices, antennas, computer systems, control systems and navigation devices will be mounted on top of the satellites. The software and algorithms that will manage the flight were developed in the Laboratory for Distributed Space Systems at the Technion.

"Miniaturization in the field of satellites, together with advanced Israeli technology, allow us to take Israel an important step forward with tiny satellites," explains Prof. Gurfil. "You can compare the degree of innovation of nanosatellites to the transition from a personal computer through a laptop to a cell phone, which offers much more capabilities than its predecessors."

"The field of nanosatellites is experiencing a significant boom in recent years and the number of launches is doubling every year," says the director of the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science, Avi Blasberger. "The costs of developing and launching such satellites, which are able to fulfill a variety of uses, are significantly lower than those of ordinary satellites. In the near future, networks are expected to appear that will include thousands of nano-satellites that will cover the earth and allow fast internet communication at a significantly lower cost than is currently customary."

"The nanosatellite program was made possible in light of the generosity of donors from Israel and the world who understand the importance of space exploration for the security of the State of Israel and its prosperity," says Prof. Boaz Golani, the Technion's vice president for foreign relations and resource development. "The Technion thanks its supporters, led by the Adelis Foundation, for the important assistance in realizing this plan, and is proud of its courageous partnership with the space industry in Israel. Without the active help of the relevant industrial parties, it would not have been possible to reach the impressive technological achievements achieved by the Adelis-Samson program."

The unique developments of the satellites are all made in blue and white: Rafael's propulsion system, based on krypton gas, will be the first of its kind in the world to fly a tiny satellite. The digital receiver was developed by Elta and the guidance control system was developed at the Mbat plant of the Aerospace Industry in collaboration with Technion researchers.

In addition to the propulsion system, the satellites will accumulate energy through solar panels that will be deployed on the sides of each satellite and will serve as wings that will be able to control the structure's flight without the use of fuel, through the air resistance in the atmosphere. On top of each of the nanosatellites will be mounted a digital receiver for receiving signals, which will be one of the most complex receivers ever designed in a nanosatellite. The system for processing the information on the satellite and the algorithms that will maintain the structure will be the first of their kind in the world and will support the autonomous operation of several satellites together. The communication and navigation system will include two GPS receivers that will be used for autonomous navigation and communication systems through which the three nano-satellites will communicate with each other and with the ground station - a significant challenge solved in the current project. A dedicated frequency will be used to transmit information to the earth in broadband.

"If we succeed in proving in an experiment in space that the flight of the structure is possible," says Prof. Gurfil, "this will be a significant boost to the development of small satellites and technologies related to the miniaturization of electronic components, efficient processing in space and propulsion systems in space. The technologies developed on the nanosatellites will contribute to a variety of civilian applications and to the advancement of the space industry in Israel."

3 תגובות

  1. I wonder who checked this matter: at an altitude of 600 km "solar panels that will be deployed on the sides of each satellite and will be used as wings that will be able to control the flight of the structure without the use of fuel, by means of the air resistance in the atmosphere" - and this is beyond a thousand and one innovative features of this project.

    Are you sure it will work? Because to me the story sounds like a hoax.

  2. When I see 3 birds flying together in the sky I don't think to myself: "Here's a flock of birds", but maybe that's just me 🙂

  3. It seems a little funny to me to call 3 satellites a "flock of satellites", it reminds me of the philosophical question "When do grains of sand become a pile of sand?", are 2 grains enough? Can 3 grains already be considered a pile of sand? When I hear "flock of satellites" I imagine at least several dozen satellites flying together in a group...

    Another thing, I'm trying to understand (really not intending to disparage or anything) where is the great and unusual challenge here? After all, there have long been satellites that know how to maneuver in space and change their height and direction, so why is it so complicated for one satellite to communicate with another satellite (directly or through a ground station) and adjust its trajectory according to that of another satellite? What is the groundbreaking challenge here?

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