IAI to build communications satellite for Israel

by

Updated Jan. 3rd at 4:25 p.m. Eastern with additional information from IAI. 

WASHINGTON — Israel Aerospace Industries said Jan. 2 it will develop a national communications satellite for Israel called Dror-1. 

The Dror-1 satellite will have a design life of 15 years and will rely primarily on domestic technologies from IAI and other Israeli firms, the company said. 

IAI’s announcement about the satellite, shared on social media, contained few details about the satellite, such as its size, coverage area or throughput. 

IAI was close to shutting down its geostationary communications satellite manufacturing line in 2018 when it lost a competition with SSL (now Maxar Technologies) to build the Amos-8 satellite. 

The Israeli government later said that IAI would build an Amos-8 satellite, prompting Spacecom, the private Israeli company the operates the Amos satellites, to cancel its manufacturing and launch contracts

Spacecom has yet to announce new plans regarding Amos-8. In an exit interview with Calcalist, Spacecom’s outgoing CEO David Pollack called the Israeli government’s actions surrounding Amos-8 “surprising and demagogic.”

In a Jan. 3 news release, IAI said the Israeli government’s commitment to the Dror-1 satellite stems from an “understanding that the capability for communication independence is of critical national importance.” That commitment, realized in 2018, includes a decision to formulate a “long-term strategy for Israeli satellite communications,” the company said.

“In recent years, IAI has invested massively in R&D to preserve Israel’s current satellite communication capabilities and in developing the future ones,” Boaz Levy, executive vice president and general manager of IAI’s Systems, Missiles and Space Group, said in a statement. “We are excited to move forward with Dror 1, the most advanced communication satellite ever built in Israel.”

IAI’s last communications satellite was Amos-6, which was destroyed in a Falcon 9 explosion during a 2016 fueling mishap. In 2018, IAI was ordered to pay Spacecom $10 million for late delivery of the Amos-6 satellite

IAI built the Beresheet lunar lander for non-profit organization SpaceIL that crashed on the moon’s surface in April 2019. The company also builds remote-sensing satellites, but has failed to gain traction with commercial telecom satellite operators.