The Technion Returns to Space
On March 22, the Adelis- SAMSON project – an autonomous satellite that will detect high precision earth-based satellites – was launched into space. This is the first simultaneous launch of three Israeli satellites. The project was developed with the support of the Adelis Foundation, the Goldstein Foundation, the Israeli Space Agency in the Ministry of Science and IAI
Technion President Uri Sivan: “Every time you look up at the sky, remember that the Technion has returned to space”
On Monday morning, at 8:07 Israel time, the autonomous satellite group developed at the Technion as part of the “Adelis- SAMSON ” project was launched into space aboard a Glavkosmos Soyuz rocket. The satellites were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – the world’s first spaceport, and the first site to send a human into space (April 1961, Yuri Gagarin). The Adelis-Samson project is supported by the Adelis Foundation, the Goldstein Foundation, and the Israeli Space Agency in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Aerospace.
Four hours and twenty minutes after the launch, the Adelis- SAMSON satellites entered orbit. Thirty minutes later, they “woke up” and began operating their systems.
Watching the live broadcast from the control center at the Asher Space Research Institute were Technion President, Professor Uri Sivan, Vice President and CEO Professor Boaz Golani, Vice President for Foreign Relations and Resource Development Professor Alon Wolf, Head of the Asher Space Research Institute Professor Yoram Rosen, and the people who have been accompanying the project since its inception, headed by Professor Pini Gurfil of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and the Asher Space Research Institute .
“This morning’s launch was accompanied by tremendous excitement”, said Prof. Pini Gurfil. “A basic study over the course of many years, combined with advanced Israeli technology, allows Israel to take an important step forward in the field of micro-satellites. You could compare the innovation of nanosatellites to switching from the computer to the cellphone. The Adelis- SAMSON project demonstrates a new concept in nanosatellites and will enable many operations to be carried out that have been reserved until now for large and expensive satellites. This is a leap in the field of miniature satellites in the capabilities of the Technion and for the entire State of Israel, and one which will make the Technion a global pioneer in the fields of location and communication, with diverse applications including missing persons detection, search and rescue, remote sensing and environmental monitoring”.
The trio of satellites will move in space in an autonomous structure flight, that is, they will move in coordination with each other without the need for guidance from the ground. The band will be used to calculate the location of radiating sources on Earth, a technology that will be applied in locating people, planes, and ships. Each of the three miniature satellites (CubeSats) weighs about 8 kg and is replete with sensors, antennae, computer systems, control systems, navigation devices, and a unique and innovative propulsion system. The satellites will travel at an altitude of 600 km above ground and will detect high precision signals from Earth. The signals will be transmitted to a special mission control center inside the Asher Space Research Institute. The mission receiver developed by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI).
“The Adelis- SAMSON project is a wonderful and exciting example of the successful integration of science and technology and the translation of innovative ideas into effective systems that contribute to humanity”, said Prof. Uri Sivan, President of the Technion. “Scientific and technological breakthroughs require multidisciplinary research and close collaboration between academia and industry, and this is what has led the project to this important day. Each time that you look up at the sky, remember that the Technion has succeeded again in reaching space”.
“The current project continues a Technion tradition that began in 1998 with the successful launch of the Gurwin-TechSat II“, added the Technion President. “That satellite operated in space for more than 11 years, a record time for academic activity in space. The launch of Adelis- SAMSON is a dramatic moment that we have been waiting nine years for and will follow closely. I sincerely thank our partners at the Adelis Foundation, the Goldstein Foundation, the Israel Space Agency and the Israel Aerospace Industries for helping us make this project a reality”.
The unique development of these satellites was made possible by an exceptional collaboration between academia and industry. A special propulsion system, based on krypton gas, will be the first of its kind in the world to operate on a tiny satellite. The digital receiver and the directional control system were developed at IAI’s plant, in collaboration with Technion researchers. In addition to the propulsion system, the satellites will accumulate energy through solar panels that will be deployed from each satellite and will serve as wings that will control, if necessary, the flight of the formation without the use of fuel, using air resistance in the atmosphere. Each of the nanosatellites is fitted with one of the most complex digital receivers ever designed. The system for processing the information on the satellite and the algorithms that will keep the structures flying is among the first of their kind in the world, and support the simultaneous autonomous operation of all three satellites. The navigation system includes two GPS receivers for autonomous navigation. The system through which the three nanosatellites will communicate with each other, as well as with the ground station, will be operated at three different frequencies – a significant challenge that was resolved in the current project. A dedicated frequency will be used to transmit information to Earth through broadband.
Satellite control and propulsion systems are also a technological innovation. To save fuel, the satellites are aided by two natural forces – gravity and atmospheric resistance – and thus propel themselves. In this way they need a small amount of fuel – less than a gram of fuel per day per satellite. This achievement is the result of ten years of research that preceded the launch.
The monitoring of the satellites and the collection of data that will be transmitted will take place at the Adelis- SAMSON control station, inaugurated at the Technion in 2018. Built with the support of the Adelis Foundation, it contains an array of antennas made by Israeli Orbit company and will communicate continuously with the satellites.
In the words of Mrs. Rebecca Boukhris, Adelis Foundation Trustee: “For many years, space and space technology have been considered the domain of superpowers, and too grand, expensive, and complex for small countries. Israel has demonstrated that this is not the case, and it is vital that it is a member of the elite international space community. The rapid development of the space industry in Israel is essential. This project is unique for the Adelis Foundation in that it symbolizes the spirit, genius, and strength of Israel. In effect, it highlights the technological and scientific brilliance of Israel and positions our country on the world map in the field of aerospace, and all this on a modest budget within the university setting of Technion. The Adelis Foundation considers itself as sowing the seeds of the future and hopes that this project will be the first of many more. We hope that many other small and brilliant projects will take the Adelis-SAMSON mission as an example and develop a new ingenious space mission for the benefit of the State of Israel”.
“The field of nano-satellites has recently been booming and the number of launches is increasing every year”, says Avi Blasberger, director of the Israeli Space Agency at the Ministry of Science and Technology. “The cost of developing and launching such satellites, capable of performing a variety of uses, is significantly lower than those of regular satellites. In the near future networks are expected to appear to include thousands of nanosatellites that will cover the Earth and enable high-speed internet communication at a significantly lower cost than is currently available, as well as having many other applications such as the one demonstrated in the SAMSON satellites”.
“We see great importance in our collaboration with the Technion to promote academic research and future technologies in the field of space”, says IAI President & CEO Boaz Levy. “IAI, Israel’s ‘National Space House’, sees high value in its connection to academia on the business and technological levels to advance Israel’s continued innovation and leadership in the field of space. This partnership promotes the development of the entire ecosystem and IAI is proud to join forces in this innovative and groundbreaking project”.
Among the many partners of Technion’s Adelis-SAMSON project are the Adelis Foundation, the Goldstein Foundation, the Israeli Space Agency in the Ministry of Science, and IAI. From the Technion, many researchers from the Asher Space Research Institute participated in the project – Avner Kaidar, Hovik Agalarian, Dr. Vladimir Balabanov, Eviatar Edlerman, Yaron Oz, Maxim Rubanovich, Margarita Shamis, Yulia Kouniavsky, Tzahi Ezra, and Dr. Alex Frid, as well as many students over the years.