Monday, September 5, 2016

He's A Rocket Mensch

SpaceX's spectacular and catastrophic test fire failure Friday that resulted in the total destruction of the company's Dragon rocket and its satellite payload cost hundreds of millions of dollars, sure.  But what people haven't been talking about as much is the fact that SpaceX's client was effectively Israel's space program.

A large question mark looms over Israel’s space industry after its prized Amos-6 satellite blew up in last week’s failed SpaceX rocket launch.

Space Communication Ltd., the Israeli company that was to operate the Amos-6, is still picking up the pieces and deciding what to do next. The government will formulate a long-term national space program, and may help develop a communications satellite, the Science Ministry said late Sunday after an emergency meeting with representatives of the country’s space industries.

The Sept. 1 accident in Cape Canaveral, Florida was the biggest blow to Israel’s space program since the death of astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

The setback imperils Space Com’s deal with China’s Beijing Xinwei Group for control of the company, but presents an opportunity for Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., the state-owned weapons manufacturer that built Amos-6. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can allot some of the estimated $300 million to pay IAI to build another satellite for Space Com, its sole client for such products, but first must decide if satellites are an industry of national strategic importance.

“This is a traumatic experience for the industry, but allows us to hold this discussion that should have happened 10-15 years ago,” Yossi Weiss, IAI’s chief executive officer, said Sunday.

Now I find this all intriguing that the end result of a major technical disaster appears to be moving Israel's satellite program away from a joint commercial venture with Beijing and towards a Israeli military takeover in the name of national interest, something that's been discussed for ten or fifteen years.

The government could push to build a new satellite and maintain the independence of Israel’s space industry, according to Tal Inbar, head of the space and UAV research center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, based in Herzliya, Israel.

Keeping the country’s space industry in-house shields it from pro-Palestinian activists who apply political pressure on foreign companies to stop doing business with Israel, Inbar said. Satellites also serve as backup for Israel’s communications infrastructure in the event of war or technical malfunction, he added.

"There’s a synergy in the triangle between Space Com, its biggest client, and its supplier, in that they’re all Israeli companies," Inbar said in an interview. "They understand each other and would be responsive to each other, so that they could amend issues in the satellite, if need be, in no time."

You don't say.  Gosh, that's quite the long-term benefit if you're the Israeli military. 

Just throwing that out there.

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