WTEC: Charles Bostian
Israel has launched one geostationary communications satellite, Amos 1, and three Offeq ("Horizon") LEO satellites. Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is the country's prime contractor and satellite integrator, and Gilat Satellite Networks is the principal service provider and earth system developer. Israeli scientists and engineers are well represented in the satellite communications literature. See, for example, the Annual Proceedings IEEE Convention of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Israel.
Amos 1 was launched on May 16, 1997, and entered commercial service on July 1 of that year. Built by IAI, Amos provides 7 Ku-band transponders, each with 72 MHz bandwidth. Five transponders serve the Middle East and two serve Eastern and Central Europe. The spacecraft carries an unusual AOCS in which a single stabilizing system serves both for the GEO transfer orbit and for subsequent on-orbit operations. The AOCS incorporates earth sensors, sun sensors, and a single momentum wheel, rather than the usual gyro-based system. Alcatel made the communications payload, and Daimler-Benz Aerospace produced the other major subsystems. COMSAT collaborated on AOCS development.
Amos 1 represents an effort by the government to stimulate the country's satellite manufacturing capabilities, partly in response to a decision not to develop an all-Israeli combat aircraft. The government agreed to lease three of the transponders if necessary. This was, in fact, not necessary, since Amos seems to be a commercial sellout.
Amos competes with the Hughes 376 spacecraft. Currently AIA is building an Amos follow-on, Magyarsat, in collaboration with Antenna Hungaria for central European coverage. Launch is planned for 2000.
Gilat designs and sells earth terminal equipment, particularly VSATs. It is well known for its innovative and effective worldwide marketing. The company has strategic partnerships with Lockheed Martin and G.E. Spacenet. Its research activities reportedly include satellite-based Internet and multimedia services.
Darcom and Israsat are two relatively new companies, which are described as "seizing the data market, using satellites rather than traditional fiber-optic cable to beam massive data files internationally." Other Israeli companies like CTP Systems Ltd. are actively developing data compression and transmission systems.
Israel launched its Offeq spacecraft using the Shavit ("Comet") launch vehicle from the Palmachim air base. This rocket has been offered unsuccessfully to NASA, and it is being marketed as a commercial launcher. Geography restricts Israel to retrograde launches.
While IAI is a competent satellite integrator, most of its technology was developed in collaboration with U.S. and European subcontractors. Israeli firms have been particularly effective in developing satellite services for niche markets in Europe and the Middle East, and Gilat is a formidable competitor for VSAT companies like Hughes Network Services.
Bulloch, Chris. 1994. Israel's Amos starts the countdown. Interavia Business and Technology. 49(584): 46(2).
Chamish, Barry. 1996. New technologies pack more value into satellite channels. Satellite Communications
____. 1995. Satellites dominate Israeli international computer data market. Satellite
Communications 19(11): 43 ff.
____. 1997. Space for lease, Middle East view. Satellite Communications 21(3): 42ff.
Israel goes to the Wall for $50m. 1995. Israel Business Today. 9(12): 27(1).
Small business: IAI's Amos communications satellite is attracting customers from outside Israel. 1996.
Flight International, 150(4531): 27(1).