Wednesday, January 23rd | 17 Shevat 5779

September 4, 2016 12:34 pm

Israeli Government Has Stake in, Capability of Creating ‘Blue and White’ Communications Satellites, Says Space Industry Source in Wake of Amos 6 Explosion

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The launch of the first Falcon 9 v1.1 from SLC-4, Vandenberg AFB (Falcon 9 Flight 6) on September 29, 2013. Photo: Wikipedia.

The launch of the first Falcon 9 v1.1 from SLC-4, Vandenberg AFB (Falcon 9 Flight 6) on September 29, 2013. Photo: Wikipedia.

A space industry source told the website Defense News on Sunday that it was “not for nothing” that the Israeli government invested so much in the satellite that was destroyed last week when the rocket set to carry it into orbit exploded on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Referring to the Amos 6, which blew up prior to takeoff on the Falcon 9 rocket, the source said, “The government has a stake in communications satellites, and in their being ‘blue and white [Israeli-made],’ rather than foreign.” He explained that Israel has emulated the example of the United States. For instance, he said, “The American unmanned surveillance aircraft Predator and Global Hawk used in Afghanistan are operated via satellite by people sitting in the US.”

According to the news site, the US Air Force (USAF) announced that it would take part in the investigation into the explosion of the Falcon 9 missile and Amos 6 satellite.

USAF Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said that his outfit was “ready to provide support for the restoration of the [American] SpaceX launching company and resumption of its flights.”

The site Space News explained the meaning of Greaves’ statement: that though the Amos 6 was not carrying a payload of national-security significance, the US Defense Department trusts SpaceX as one of two companies — the other is United Launch Alliance — that can build rockets capable of carrying military and spy satellites.

As a result, according to Space News, the USAF closely follows all SpaceX launches.

In June 2015, the USAF granted the Falcon 9 launcher rockets official permits to carry defense-related payloads, and the company is slated to send a spy satellite into space next spring.

According to Defense News, Greaves tweeted over the weekend, “September 1 is a tough day for the entire space community.”

Brig. Gen. Wayne R. Monteith, commander of the 45th Space Wing, which handles the processing and launching of US government and commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral also expressed his sorrow. In a released statement in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, he wrote:

Days like today are difficult for many reasons. There was the potential for things to be a lot worse; however, due to our processes and procedures no one was injured as a result of this incident. I am proud of our team and how we managed today’s response and our goal moving forward will be to assist and provide support wherever needed. Space is inherently dangerous and because of that, the Air Force is always ready.

As was reported on the site SpaceFlight Now on Sunday, “A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded in the final minutes of a simulated countdown at Cape Canaveral on Thursday, destroying the booster and an Israeli communications satellite valued at nearly $200 million.”

According to the report,

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher exploded at 9:07 a.m. EDT (1307 GMT), a few minutes before a planned ignition of the rocket’s nine Merlin main engines for a brief “static fire” test designed to wring out problems with the launch pad and the vehicle.

The Falcon 9 was scheduled to blast off early Saturday with the Amos 6 satellite, a nearly 6-ton commercial television and Internet broadcast platform owned by Spacecom Ltd. of Israel.

The mishap destroyed the rocket and the Amos 6 satellite, SpaceX said in a statement. The launch pad was cleared of all personnel for the static fire test, and no injuries were reported.

Saturday’s launch was supposed to be the 29th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket. Another SpaceX launcher disintegrated about two minutes after a liftoff in June 2015 with a Dragon supply ship heading for the space station, but the company had logged nine successful flights in a row since resuming launch operations in December.

A component inside the Falcon 9’s upper stage liquid oxygen tank was the source of last year’s in-flight rocket failure, according to SpaceX. Officials blamed the failure on a sub-standard strut holding one of the tank’s high-pressure helium reservoirs inside the upper stage liquid oxygen tank.

There were no other reports of damage at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station or Kennedy Space Center.

As The Algemeiner reported in October, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his company’s plan to launch a satellite into space, to connect more users around the world.

“As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa,” Zuckerberg posted on his page. “The AMOS-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite.”

What Zuckerberg did not mention, however, was the fact that the Amos 6 was going to be built by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

According to a report in the Hebrew news site Walla on Sunday, IAI head Yossi Weiss said his company has the capability to develop an alternative satellite to the Amos-6 within two years, while simultaneously building Amos 7.

Meanwhile, according to the report, Israeli Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis met with leaders of the space industry, to pick their brains and receive proposals for moving forward, in the aftermath of the Amos 6’s destruction.

“The loss of the satellite emphasizes the need to develop an accelerated civilian space program,” Akunis said. “The main goal is to create such a program, with government assistance, to preserve and enhance the great technological advantages of Israel’s space industry.”

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