Israeli Satellite To Monitor Crops From Outer Space

Israel is no stranger to the vast, uncharted realm of outer space, but up to now, this nation’s presence has been limited to about a dozen reconnaissance and communication satellites, mostly for military purposes. Now Israel is embarking on a very new and different endeavor in collaboration with France. Known as Venus (Vegetation and Environment Monitoring on a New Micro-Satellite), this is Israel’s first civilian-oriented satellite.


Planet Earth

Photo Source:


This endeavor represents the perfect scientific amalgam; the French space agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) providing the camera for the satellite and the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) the spacecraft, the launcher interface and the satellite control center.  The Venus satellite will be launched from the Kourou Islands in French Guiana and has an expected minimum lifespan of ten years.

Venus Satellite

Photo Source:Aharon Lapidot

Initiated in 2005, the project was delayed several times due to developmental problems concerning the camera for the ultra-lightweight satellite. The super spectral sensor is so powerful that it can transmit images via twelve narrow spectral bands across wavelengths that are beyond the spectrum of the human eye.

The sensor’s band setting, which could be a useful tool in studies involving coastal areas and inland waters is designed to record accurate atmospheric conditions via red edge bands. These bands have the capacity to estimate the water vapor content and the aerosol optical depth of the atmosphere, which measures the degree to which aerosols (air pollutants) prevent the transmission of light.

Venus’s purpose is scientific and totally benevolent. It will provide important data for future studies concerning the monitoring and analysis of agricultural crops and the impact of environmental factors and pollution on growth capacity. A secondary aspect of the mission is directed at the relevance of these observations combined with two day revisiting capabilities resulting from the satellite’s flying position and its capacity to observe any site under a constant view angle.

Other countries seek collaboration with Israel on its numerous space endeavors because of the nation’s expertise in developing lighter-weight satellites. Israel’s location has forced its scientists to develop rockets that can be launched from the west instead of the east, in line with the earth’s rotation as other countries do. Due to this factor, successful launches are dependant on a lighter weight satellite. (To give proper perspective, Amos 6 weighs 5 tons and the typical US satellite weighs 25 tons.) The costs of material are greatly reduced with lighter rockets as every pound runs almost $10,000 to launch.

Amos Satellite

Photo Source: Spacecom

According to CNES: “…The satellite will take pictures of pre-defined sites of interest all around the world.” Venus and its mission, (which its creators chose to accept), is slated for launch in 2015 in conjunction with communications satellite, Amos 6. The final decision for launch was made at the 9th International Space Conference, an annual event dedicated to the memory of Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut who died in the Columbia shuttle disaster of 2003. The conference attracts space industry workers from all over the world, among them officials from NASA, Russia, China, Italy, the European Space Agency, Canada and Norway.

Ilan Ramon


The Venus and Amos launch reflect the growing power of Israel’s presence in space. The eighth country in the world to launch a satellite, only 13 countries have broken through the earth’s atmosphere. Since its first rocket launch back in 1988 with Ofeq-1, Israel today can boast of more than 15 satellites revolving around the earth as part of three different satellite programs.

International Space Station

Photo Source:NASA/Crew of STS-132


Just as the Americas must have looked to the galleons of Christopher Columbus, outer space is tomorrow’s dominion, made possible by the endeavors of those brave enough to venture beyond established borders today.