Israel launched its first environmental satellite into space in the early hours of Wednesday from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The satellite is named Venus, an acronym for Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro Satellite. It was built by Israel Aerospace Industries as part of a joint earth observation and exploratory mission between the Israel Space Agency (ISA) – a government body sponsored by the country’s Ministry of Science & Technology – and the French Space Agency (CNES).
Israel’s Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said: “Israel is known throughout the world for its daring and innovation, which has resulted in the technological development of Venus, and we are extremely proud to see the incredible results of the hard work carried out by Israel’s leading engineers and researchers, led by the Israeli Space Agency and the French Space Agency.”
The satellite’s cameras and other equipment will take dozens of photographs to monitor aspects of environmental change in soil, vegetation, forests, agriculture, water, and air quality in Israel and around the world. It is ISA’s first civilian satellite and at just under 265kg is considered the smallest of its kind in the world.
The satellite will capture images of sites every two days, each one covering approximately 760 square kilometres, using a special camera that records light on 12 different wave lengths. By imaging the exact same sites repeatedly, the satellite will help researchers to monitor precise changes over time with the goal of gaining more detailed knowledge of the links between carbon and climate change.
The project mission involves close Israeli cooperation with several European countries, in particular France. Data will be transmitted to a station in northern Sweden before being sent to for preliminary processing by CNES. A team at Ben-Gurion University will analyse images of Israel.
An intelligence satellite named OPTSAT 3000 was also put into orbit in the same launch. The satellite was built by Israel for the Italian Defence Ministry.