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Arie Egozi

The fast pace of Iran’s ballistic missiles programme may accelerate Israeli efforts to launch a large number of Nano satellites to better monitor the developing threat. The idea is to launch a large number of Nano and Micro satellites that will form “Swarms” to improve Israel’s capability to get an almost real time intelligence picture of countries that pose threats to Israel, mainly Iran. These small and relatively cheap satellites will operate in parallel to the country’s full size spy satellites of the OFFEK series, the last of which was launched last week.

All Israeli spy satellites have been manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) but this time, proposals are being sought from Rafael, which some years ago unveiled a satellite concept that weighs less than 220 pounds, about a quarter of the current OFFEK series satellites that can still deliver 23 inch resolution images. The price of such a Nano satellite is expected to be approximately US$20m.

Close the gap

Although the OFFEK series visits “areas of interest” in big intervals, they cannot keep a persistant watch over these areas so when it comes to ballistic missiles threats, this is a major problem. Israeli sources say that some 30 minutes are needed from the command to prepare a ballistic missile for launch until it is ready, such a short time, when the enemy is aware of the “visiting” time of the spy satellites over his territory, can be the perfect trick to avoid the detection of the preparations and the launch itself, when the missiles engines make it a very clear target for space based infra-red sensors.

“But when you use a constellation of such satellites , the combined capability can be very effective in missions like locating missile launchers.” a source said.

The spokesperson of the Israeli Ministry of Defence said in response that as a general rule, the Ministry does not publish information on its satellite programmes due to security classification.

In relation to small optical satellites they said, “in 2017 the Ministry of Defence issued a call for information only (RFI) from industries in Israel and around the world on small optical satellite. So far no decision has been made on the matter and no procurement procedure has been carried out.”

IAI and Rafael declined to comment.