Elbit Systems Upbeat Following Israeli-Italian Hyperspectral Imager Deal

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  Space News Business

Elbit Systems Upbeat Following Israeli-Italian Hyperspectral Imager Deal

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 14 July 2009
07:10 am ET





PARIS — Israel’s Elbit Systems Electro-Optics, now given greater export leeway from its government, is looking to team with satellite prime contractors to sell its high-resolution satellite Earth-imaging cameras, according to Gabby Sarusi, vice president of the Rehovot-based company’s Imagery Intelligence division.

Elbit
is using the same low-power, lightweight advantages of its optical imagers, which fly on Israel’s Eros and Ofeq satellites, to introduce a hyperspectral imager in partnership between the Israel Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

The two agencies signed an agreement June 15 to develop a hyperspectral imaging satellite to build upon work done on Italy’s Prisma imager and on Elbit sensors developed for aerial surveillance. The agreement will also take advantage of Elbit work on its Neptune super-spectral camera, which weighs 45 kilograms and can detect objects of 5.3 meters in diameter from a 720-kilometer orbit. The imager has a 27.5-kilometer swath width and uses 90 watts of power.

Sarusi
said that after a nine-month study phase to determine a division of responsibility for the project, Israel and Italy are expected to fund equal shares of a program valued at around 170 million euros ($237 million). “The aim is to upgrade both countries’ hyperspectral capabilities,” he said.

Enrico
Saggese, president of ASI, said here June 17 that the hyperspectral imager to be developed by the two nations would have 200 channels. Ultimately, he said, ASI hopes to join with Israel to build one or two satellites.

Elbit
and its frequent partner, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), have had difficulties in some international bids because of government restrictions on what the prospective customer could do with the resulting satellite, and on what Israeli technologies were permitted for export.

A long competition in Turkey for an optical Earth observation satellite is one example of a contest in which Elbit and IAI were hobbled because of “some export license issues,” Sarusi said in a June 16 interview. “The losses we have had in international competitions were not related to performance issues or technical issues.” ThalesAlenia Space Italy ultimately won that competition.

He said Elbit remains optimistic that it has a chance to win an ongoing competition to provide an Earth observation satellite for the government of Kazakhstan.

Sarusi
said that since late 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has permitted Elbit to export its Neptune satellite optical imaging camera. A Neptune variant is on board the Israeli Eros-B commercial imaging satellite, in orbit since 2006, and on the Israeli government’s Ofeq 7 satellite, launched aboard Israel’s Shavit rocket in June 2007.

“This is currently our bread-and-butter camera,” Sarusi said.

Neptune is able to detect objects 70 centimeters in diameter from a 530-kilometer-high orbit. It weighs 45 kilograms and consumes 50 watts of power, according to Elbit. The company says the imager’s swath width is 6.7 kilometers.