First Israeli Academic Research Nanosatellite Launched

“BGUSAT,” the first nanosatellite for Israeli academic research, was launched into space on Wednesday, February 15 as part of a collaboration between Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Israel Ministry of Science, Technology and Space. It will provide researchers with data on climate change, agricultural developments and more.

The nanosatellite is slightly larger than a milk carton (4 x 4 x 12 inches) and weighs only 11 pounds. Since large satellites are so expensive, few risks can be taken that might jeopardise their mission. Because nanosatellites are less costly, they offer a larger arena for space innovation.


“BGUSAT is an important and affordable new tool to facilitate space engineering and research,” says Prof. Dan Blumberg, BGU vice president and dean for research and development. “The reduced costs allow academia to assume a much more active role in the field, taking advantage of the innovation and initiative of researchers and students.”


BGUSAT is outfitted with visual and short wavelength infrared cameras. Hovering at 300 miles above the surface of the earth, the nanosatellite’s orbital path will enable BGU researchers to study a broad range of scientific phenomena, such as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and information about the Earth’s airglow layer, which provides crucial information about climate change.


BGUSAT carries two imaging payloads, an experimental GPS receiver and an optical communication experiment. It can change its angle and obtain views from multiple orbits and positions. Larger satellites orbit too high to accomplish this, while observation planes and balloons fly too low. The data will be transmitted to a ground station at BGU.


While developing BGUSAT, BGU students and researchers were challenged to conceive new methods of constructing a miniaturised satellite, working together to integrate knowledge from the software and electrical engineering, planetary sciences and industrial management fields.


“This is the first project to showcase the enhanced space engineering capability we are developing at BGU,” Blumberg says. BGU’s Earth and Planetary Image Facility is one of just five NASA Regional Planetary Image Facilities outside the U.S.


According to Avi Blasberger, director of the Israel Space Agency and BGU alumnus, “This is the first time Israeli researchers will have the opportunity to receive information directly from a blue and white [Israeli] satellite without having to go through other countries or research agencies.”


BGUSAT was launched from the Satish Dhawan launching pad in India.

Above: Installing the satellite dish that will receive the data transmitted from BGUSAT and send it to the ground station at BGU's EPIF. Aviran Sadon, a doctoral student who was instrumental in the BGUSAT process, is pictured gesturing in this photo from March 2016. 



As a NASA RPIF, BGU receives images such as these three above on a regular basis. BGU received these specific images in recent months.

(Photo Credit: NASA)