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Israel Spends $6 Million to Boost Space Tech Startups, From Microchips to Zero-Gravity Vegetables

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Scientists participate in a demonstration of an experiment led by Austrian and Israeli agencies simulating a mission to Mars near Mitzpe Ramon, Israel October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel has earmarked about $6 million (18.5 million shekels) for eleven space tech startups as part of a program to promote research and development of satellite communications, rocket propulsion and sensors.

“The global space industry is going through a real revolution. The market doubled in size over the last decade and is expected to grow to a trillion dollars in the coming years,” commented Israel’s Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen on Thursday. “Israel has clear advantages in the space industry, but especially in the security domain. Therefore, we now have to promote the civilian dimension of space and to connect it to the Israeli high-tech industry.”

Farkash-Hacohen added that the program will support the technological development of eleven space startups in the fields of satellite communications, rocket propulsion, and sensors. The technologies developed by the chosen companies are expected to help deal with climate change, mining, and agriculture, among other fields.

“The space industry is gaining momentum and touches on every area of our lives, and this program is part of the important process of strengthening this industry,” she remarked.

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Among the winners of the R&D funding are Terra Space Lab, which is making a space shuttle scanner with a multi-spectral infrared antenna installed on the back of nano-satellites, for real-time data processing in space.

Israeli agriculture engineering startup GreenOnyx is working on the growth of fresh superfood vegetables in spaceships for astronauts on long-duration space missions. In the first stage of the program, a small-scale automatic growth system will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) to check the rate of growth and the quality of fresh greens in zero gravity conditions, and to devise new ways to eat without cooking or processing under space flight conditions.

Other winners include Helios, an Israeli startup that has developed technology to produce oxygen from lunar soil, and Ramon Space, a developer of next-generation space microchips that can process signals and analyze information received via satellite, including images.

The funding program is a joint initiative by the Israel Space Agency in the Innovation, Science and Technology Ministry and the Israel Innovation Authority. Launched in 2012, 62 R&D projects have already won a total of around $51 million.

“The global space industry is at an unprecedented stage of growth,” said Brigadier-General (res.) Uri Oron, Director General of the Israel Space Agency.This program allows the entry of new players into this sector in Israel, as well as the strengthening of existing companies, while leveraging technological abilities in the existing space industry in Israel. This combination constitutes a social and economic growth engine.”

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