Israel launched the country’s first environmental research satellite on Wednesday morning from a launch site in French Guiana, a French territory located on the northeast coast of South America.
The launch, which is a joint venture between the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and its French counterpart Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).
Ben Gurion University of the Negev said in a release that the new satellite will provide high-density photography to aide agricultural and ecological research. The project is headed by Ben Gurion Professor Arnon Karnieli, head of the university’s Remote Sensing Laboratory at the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research in Sde Boker and is the lead Israeli researcher on the project, together with French researcher Dr. Gerard Dedieu.
The launch takes place at a time that environmental research satellites have come to play an increasingly important role in charting and addressing environmental hazards such as overpopulation, the dwindling of arable land, pollution and natural disasters. Ben Gurion University said in a statement that the satellite will track and record data about the indicators including status of the land, foliage, forestation, agriculture, and quality of water sources. The satellite will transmit images every two days, with the first images are expected to be available to researchers on November 1.
Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis said the launch is the latest in a long string of accomplishments for Israeli researchers.
“Israel is renowned the world over for its courage and innovation, elements which are expressed in the technological development of VENµS as well. We are filled with pride to see this long-awaited project of the best engineers and researchers in Israel led by the Israel Space Agency and CNES reach fruition,” Akunis said.
The micro satellite, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), will weigh 265 kg at launch and is equipped with a special camera that scans the earth in 12 wavelengths, far more detail than the human eye can discern.