Is Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) trying to ape the model of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) to become the next deep space exploration superpower? Due to a private expedition to the moon, experts are wondering about the possibility of Israel joining the American NASA, Russian ROSCOSMOS, Chinese CNSA, Indian ISRO, and other space agencies in the exploration of space.
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The SpaceIL lunar lander is a go for launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 toward the end of 2018. If all goes as planned, the robotic lander – Sparrow, will cruise towards the moon on a slow course that will progressively raise its orbit around the Earth before being captured by the moon’s gravity and landing on the lunar surface by February 2019.
As per secondary research by EurAsian Times, the Sparrow will capture images, videos and conduct measurements of the moon’s magnetic field. NASA has signed an agreement with the Israeli Space Agency to include a laser refractor on the SpaceIL Sparrow. The American space agency has also arranged for the mission to use the NASA’s Deep Space Network.
The Israel Aerospace Industries, the key contractor building the Sparrow and is already considering the commercial possibilities of a lunar lander, according to Space News. Two hurdles must be dealt with before IAI undertakes its own mission to the moon i.e. finding financers and customers. Israel has a version of NASA, the Israeli Space Agency, but as a recent article in Haaretz notes, it is underfunded.
The Israeli Space Agency has yet to conduct its own space exploration mission. The ISA has an annual budget of $80 million, though that does not include funding for specific launch vehicles and satellites, which are paid for on a case-by-case basis. The Israeli government could pay for follow-on missions to the moon. The Sparrow will cost approximately $88 million, which should be well within Israel’s ability and capacity.
The Israeli Aerospace Industries will have to search for private customers. If the flight of the Sparrow is successful, the IAI could make the case that it can fly payloads economically just like the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is doing. The key would be to find enough customers willing to pay which basically cover the cost of the flight, along with some profits.
Still, if Israel Aerospace Industries can solve the problem of paying for missions to the moon, the company will have demonstrated the capacity to explore space. With the United Arab Emirates planning a mission to Mars soon, Israel can collaborate with the UAE and other middle east nations. Some of the Gulf nations are already trying to established peace with Israel and starting to diversify their economies from oil into high tech, and Arab-Israeli space missions cannot be ruled out.
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