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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is playing a key role in the research component of VENUS, Israel’s first environmental research satellite launched today at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, Guiana. Venμs is a joint project of the Israel Space Agency (ISA) in the Science Ministry and its French counterpart, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).

Venμs (Vegetation and Environment Monitoring on a New Micro Satellite) will support the study of vegetation evolution, agriculture and the environment. It will capture dozens of images daily, including those that cannot be seen by the human eye, using a sophisticated multi-spectral camera. The camera will capture images in 12 wavelengths including the four “red-edge” wavelengths -- a relatively narrow spectral area that will enable scientists to better quantify the state and dynamics of vegetation at the chosen research sites. 

Images specific to Israel will be received, analyzed and archived at the BGU Remote Sensing Laboratory on the Sede Boqer campus, an operation site of the Science and Technology Ministry. Prof Arnon Karnieli, lead researcher on the satellite project, heads the laboratory at BGU’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research.

“The satellite is uniquely suited for monitoring agricultural crops in accordance with the concept of ‘precision agricultures,' offering high-spatial resolution of 16 feet (five meter) and a 48-hour revisit time,” says Prof. Karnieli. “This concept allows a farmer to see the spatial and temporal changes of his crops not just on the scale of the entire field, but on an intra-field scale of small plots. It will help conserve resources and protect the land and groundwater from surpluses of water, fertilizers and pesticides.”  

Venμs is BGU’s second satellite project successfully launched this year. “BGUSAT,” the first nanosatellite for Israeli academic research, was launched in February as part of a collaboration between BGU, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Israel Ministry of Science, Technology and Space. It is currently providing researchers with information on a range of scientific phenomena. 

“Israel is renowned the world over for its courage and innovation, elements which are expressed in the technological development of VENµS," says Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis. "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 the French space agency reach fruition.”

From a technological perspective, the blue and white satellite, built by IAI, also features a new electrical propulsion system designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., which is intended to reduce the satellite’s weight. Elbit Systems Ltd. designed the special camera. The micro satellite weighs 586 pounds (265 kilograms) and will enter a geo-synchronous orbit at a height of 447 miles (720 kilometers) within two days of the launch. It will orbit the Earth 29 times each 48-hour cycle and is expected to remain in orbit for 4.5 years, after which it will move to a lower orbit, 255 miles (410 kilometers) from Earth.

 “This satellite represents an unprecedented integration of capabilities and will enable a broad range of research tasks in the planetary sciences,” says Prof. Karnieli.