Israeli gov't mulls building communications satellite

Amos-6 satellite, photo: PR

Science Minister Ofir Akunis has proposed government assistance for Israel Aerospace Industries to build a communications satellite to replace Amos 6.

Israeli is considering state aid to the Israeli space industry, following the destruction of Spacecom Satellite Communications Ltd.'s (TASE:SCC) Amos 6 satellite. In a discussion today in the Knesset Science and Technology Committee, Minister of Science, Technology, and Space Ofir Akunis said that he had sent a letter today to the prime minister, minister of defense, and minister of finance calling for consideration of initial aid to the Israeli space industry in the coming days.

Such a measure means government assistance for government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1), and possibly also for Spacecom. As of now, the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space is considering to whom the tens of millions of shekels demanded by Akunis should be allocated. A more logical scenario on the agenda is aid to IAI, so that it will be able to build a satellite that could be owned by the state, thereby eliminating the dependence on private companies like Spacecom, and perhaps also competing with it. At the same time, it cannot be ruled out that the money will be given to Spacecom itself, owned by Shaul Elovitch, considered an associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Akunis told the committee, "The damage caused to the Amos 6 and Amos 5 satellites has not affected the prodigious capabilities possessed by our industries. We want to enhance these capabilities. Building Israeli-made communications satellites is strategically important. Israel must preserve its complete independence in communications, without dependence on external parties. One of the immediate solutions that should be pursued is immediately beginning the construction of a new satellite."

Akunis's letter demanded from the prime minister and the minister of finance that the state provide a safety net for the relevant companies in Israel's communications satellite industry through an immediate allocation to the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space in the first stage for ordering the components needed to develop a new communications satellite.

Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space director general Peretz Vazan explained to the committee the strategic importance of a communications satellite for Israel, saying, "Today, Israel is almost completely dependent on a small number of undersea cables (which are also dependent on external parties). Communications satellites in space are the sole alternative for preserving communications independence. This independence provides technological control and preserves communications at all times, and the installing of various components essential for the defense establishment."

ISA chairman Prof. Isaac Ben Israel said, "Israel needs to decide that communications in outer space is a strategic field, and should not leave it exclusively to the private market." Committee chairman Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) said, "Israel is at a crossroads. We have to decide where we are headed and what our goals are in the aerospace industry. It is a critical time. Everybody agrees about the economic, political, and security importance, but only if a clear policy is set will we go in the right direction."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 11, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

Amos-6 satellite, photo: PR
Amos-6 satellite, photo: PR
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