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Israel Building New Radar Satellite

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From C4ISR Journal


Israel Building New Radar Satellite


March 04, 2005


Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Elta Systems Ltd., a subsidiary of government-owned Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), unveiled details of the TecSAR satellite, a low-earth orbiting synthetic aperture radar technology demonstrator planned for launch by the first half of 2006.


According to specifications displayed along with a mockup of the satellite during a Feb. 22 seminar at Elta’s headquarters in Ashdod, the satellite will weigh 300 kilograms, including the 100-kilogram SAR payload. The multimode payload employs electronic beam steering, which can be operated in strip-imaging mode, whereby synthetic apertures are targeted on wide geographical swaths; in spot-imaging mode which focuses on a specific, pre-assigned target; or in so-called mosaic mode, where the radar imager slews its focus on a number of spots in the same general target area.


The TecSAR — like Israel’s Ofeq series of spy satellites — will pass over specific target areas once every 90 minutes or so. But because the satellite’s SAR payload is capable of providing high-resolution imagery during the day, at night and in all weather conditions, it will provide double the amount of usable intelligence within a 24-hour, since the Ofeq’s electro-optical camera cannot capture imagery at night or through clouds and other climatic obstacles.


In a Feb. 22 announcement, Elta noted that a powerful ground station is already deployed to task new missions via a high speed data link, which also downloads images for further exploitation and interpretation. The data link is capable of storing 240 giga-bytes of memory.


Technology incorporated in TechSAR is based on more than two decades of development work at Elta, Israel’s radar development house. Operational SAR systems developed by Elta include the EL/M-2060P reconnaissance pod for fighters, which captures 50,000 kilometers of territory per hour at standoff ranges of up to 150 kilometers, and the EL/M-2055 for unmanned aerial vehicles and light aircraft, both of which are capable of detecting and tracking moving ground targets.


IAI President and Chief Executive Moshe Keret said Elta, through its development and production of TechSAR, joins IAI’s other business units that contribute to Israel’s space-related capabilities. IAI’s MBT Division is prime contractor for four Israeli satellites currently in orbit: the military Ofeq-5, the commercial Earth Remote Observation Satellite (Eros-A), the Amos-1 and Amos-2 telecommunications satellites.


Additionally, IAI’s MLM Division is prime contractor for the Shavit, three-stage rocket, which is expected to loft TechSAR into orbit. Although the Shavit failed to launch Israel’s Ofeq-6 into orbit last August due to a faulty electronic component, defense and industry sources here said Israel’s MoD is sticking with the indigenous system for upcoming launches of the Ofeq-7 as well as TechSAR.


“Our ability to integrate SAR systems and similar technologies will enable our company to advance future business opportunities also in the sector of civilian space,” Keret told government and industry executives at the Elta seminar in late February.


While security classifications prevented IAI and MoD officials from discussing the intended resolution for the planned TechSAR, sources here said the spacecraft should be capable of detecting objects as small as one-meter across. An expert at Israel’s Asher Space Research Institute, part of the Technion technical university of Haifa, noted that resolution of SAR satellites is usually determined by the size of the radar’s antennae when measured in the direction of movement, meaning that a SAR satellite with a two-meter antennae should generate imagery of about one meter, depending on orbiting altitude and other technical variables.

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