Ben-Gurion University researchers developing rocket propulsion systems for satellites

The core of the engine is a catalytic support on which the fuel, hydrazine, breaks down.

Ben-Gurion University researchers are developing a rocket propulsion system for Israeli satellites launched into space, said Prof. Mordechai Herskowitz, head of the Blechner Center for Industrial Catalysis and Process Development at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Herskowitz said that the system has so far been manufactured only by one company in the world: Shell.

He added that the system provides high-speed, reliable rocket propulsion for satellites. The engines involved are steering engines that must have a high level of accuracy in terms of propulsion, to maintain the satellite’s altitude or change orbits.

The core of the engine is a catalytic support on which the fuel, hydrazine, breaks down. Such catalytic support is also installed in F-16 aircraft for emergency generators, when the engine stops functioning momentarily.

Prof. Herskowitz said that the development of the engine would be successfully completed in the coming year. Most of the development work is taking place at the Blechner Center.

The system is installed in the satellite’s steering engines, placing the satellite into its final orbit. The satellite launch market is estimated at tens of billions of dollars, and the cost of launching a satellite is tens of millions of dollars. The last-stage engine market is worth less than the satellite launching market.

Prof. Herskowitz said that the engine “will launch Israeli satellites into space in the future.” The project has been commissioned by an external body, which also finances it. Herskowitz would not disclose the identity of this body.

The agency in question is apparently Rafael (Israel Armaments Development Authority), which manufactures the third-stage engine for Israel Air Industry’s Shavit satellite launcher. Shavit launched into space Israel’s four Ofek military satellites.

Published by Israel's Business Arena on 6 August, 2001

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