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Israel eye in space on Indian shoulder

New Delhi and Tel Aviv, both sides are joining hands—in space. Crippled by a shoestring budget and wars that bleed the economy, Israel’s scientists are banking on India’s space programme as they work on a small but spunky mission of their own. The Israel Space Agency has already spent $15 million on its most sophisticated telescope that’s meant to map new galaxies. And plans are afoot to send it onboard the Geo Stationary Launch Vehicle satellite that India proposes to launch by the end of 2005. This will mark the beginning of cooperation between the two in space sciences. ‘‘It will be one of the most sophisticated telescopes to be put in geo-stationary orbit and will use ultra violet rays to collect data,’’ Har-Even told The Indian Express in his Tel Aviv office.While India has agreed to the mission, the Knesset is at present debating the budget implications. ‘‘Since the telescope was made five to six years ago, the entire configuration has to be changed. Huge investments are required and it is going to be clear soon whether the telescope will be able to make it to the next GSLV launch,’’ said Har-Evan.

The data, to be shared by both countries,is purely ‘‘scientific’’ in nature, its aim to find new galaxies in space. It was originally planned to be sent up with the Russian satellite SRG. But because of economic problems in Russia, the 6.5-tonne satellite never took off. The process with cooperation with India started two and a half years ago. The scientists first met in Vienna and then followed it up with meetings in India. It was only last October that the cooperation agreement was signed in Bangalore between the two countries. ISRO’s then chairman K Kasturirangan visited Israel two months ago to finalise the details of the launch. ‘‘Israel has already invested close to $15 million and now it is in our interest that we carry forward the programme. It is important for the scientific community,’’ said Har-Even. It claims success in developing hardware such as small satellites and satellite-based equipment like remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), and propulsion engines. The space program benefits from cooperation with national space agencies in the United States, France, Germany, the Ukraine and Russia, as well as from the Israeli space industry of some 20 firms it ultimately seeks to promote.

Source: Indian Express
18th September 2003
New Delhi