Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has signed an agreement with the Weizmann Institute of Science and Israel’s Ministry of Science, under which it will design, develop, and build the ULTRASAT (Ultraviolet Transient Astronomy Satellite), Israel’s first astronomical observation satellite. The satellite, which incorporates ground-breaking and unique technological capabilities, will be developed by IAI, which has extensive experience in observation missions from space, both for military and civilian applications. together with partners in Israel and elsewhere, such as Elop, DESY (the German Electron Synchrotron), and NASA, which will launch the satellite into space. DESY and NASA are also participating in the scientific research program.

ULTRASAT will be launched in 2026, to perform space observation and image the universe in the ultraviolet (UV) portion of the spectrum. The satellite’s main scientific mission will be the detection of transient astronomical events, which take place in a short astrophysical time period, such as supernova explosions. Rapid identification and early warning of these events will allow scientific research to be conducted on them, and the complex physical theories concerning the formation of the universe to be modified, something which is not possible today when stellar events are detected randomly. The ULTRASAT satellite will be placed in geostationary orbit (some 36,000 km from Earth), at a point that will allow for continuous contact with the ground station, located at IAI. The data observed by the satellite will be continuously transmitted to the ground station and be immediately transferred for analysis at the Weizmann Institute, which will issue notifications of any discovery to all scientific partners.

The agreement joins a long and impressive list of IAI’s recent achievements in space activities, including the successful launch of the EROS C3 electro-optical satellite, the development of the world’s first dual-payload observation satellite (OPTSAR550) which combines radar and optical imagery in one satellite and work on the State of Israel’s next communications satellite – DROR 1.

Shlomi Sudri, VP & General Manager of IAI’s Space Division: “Israel Aerospace Industries is proud to show, yet again, that the sky is not the limit, and that comprehensive and extensive activity in space is not the sole prerogative of the world’s superpowers. As Israel’s ‘space house’, IAI’s accumulated knowledge, technological capabilities, and experience in space-related programs, leave us in no doubt that the ULTRASAT satellite will succeed in its mission, and serve as a highly important scientific tool that will position the State of Israel at the forefront of the world’s space research. The Space Division, which leads the project, has the benefit of the best workers and professionals in their field, and it is they who are bringing the company to achievements that surpass the imagination, as we expect also in the ULTRASAT program.”

Professor Eli Waxman, an astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and head researcher for the ULTRASAT program: “This is a ground-breaking scientific project, which places Israel at the forefront of worldwide space research. Recognition of the important scientific contribution of this mission has resulted in leading international organizations, such as NASA, and the German DESY research institute, joining as partners in this Israeli-led program. They are investing significant resources in both the satellite launch and in building the camera sensor, in return for active involvement in the program, and access to its scientific results.”

The limited number of astronomical observation satellites that have so far been launched into space have allowed scientists to research and discover new phenomena, such as dark matter and dark energy, which make up the bulk of the volume of the universe – although their composition is unclear. In addition, these satellites have led to the discovery of new planets, having similar characteristics to those of Planet Earth, and have assisted in many aspects of scientific research. Now, with the beginning of the development of the ULTRASAT satellite by IAI, a unique national scientific program is being launched, one that will, within a few years, provide the State of Israel with a powerful scientific tool in space. The satellite’s contribution is expected to be on a global scale.

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