The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2003


By Arieh O'Sullivan

Israel's Amos-2 telecommunications satellite lifted off just before midnight Saturday atop a Russian rocket in Kazakhstan, ensuring Israel's firm membership in the international space market.

The 160-kilo satellite, built by Israel Aircraft Industries' MBT Division, is expected to eventually reach a geo-stationary orbit, where it will provide cellular phone and on-line data links, and television transmissions.

Only seven other nations are capable of developing and producing communication satellites. As much as the design and construction of a communication satellite is a source of pride for this small country, the Zionist endeavor is almost totally a business venture that investors hope will soon recoup the $150 million cost.

David Pollack, director of Spacecom Ltd., the company that markets the satellite services, was monitoring the liftoff from Tel Aviv. Spacecom said that commercial investment is expected to total more than $400 million over the next 11 years.

The Amos-2 is to supplement its sister satellite, Amos-1, launched in 1996. Israel has also built and launched the Ofek-5 spy satellite. Four other Israeli satellites have been launched and since decommissioned.

Spacecom was originally to have launched the Amos-2 atop an Ariane rocket from French Guiana, but this launch was transferred to Starsem, which decided to launch it on a Soyuz-FG rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Kazakhstan desert.

That large rocket is the same type used to send crews and cargo to the International Space Station. It stands 46.1 meters tall and weighs over 300,000 kilograms at launch.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is Russia's main launch base for larger rockets such as the Soyuz and the workhorse Proton. Russia leases the base from the former Soviet state.

Israeli officials said they were comforted by the reputation of the Soyuz as the world's most trusted launch vehicle, with over 1,600 successful missions.

The satellite is to have final separation from the four-stage rocket about seven hours after liftoff. It will be in an elliptical orbit and over the next 10 days technicians will use booster engines to bring it out to a 36,000 km. circular orbit, which will maintain it in a stationary position enabling it to focus on the Middle East, Central Europe, and, unlike the Amos-1, the East Coast of the United States. It has a 10- to 12-year life expectancy.

Spacecom had sold all of the transponder space on the Amos-1; the Amos-2, with its larger capacity, will eventually take over from its older sister. The Amos-1 has a life expectancy of some 12 years and will eventually die in 2008.

The Amos-2 is expected to be in service until at least 2014, IAI officials said. Spacecom is now embarking on production of the Amos-3.

Copyright 1995-2003 The Jerusalem Post -

HOME Maccabean comments