Israel becomes major partner in EU satellite program

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Artist's rendition of a Galileo satellite (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Artist’s rendition of a Galileo satellite (Photo credit: Courtesy)

BY David Shamah Times of Isreal October 22, 2013

Local companies and academics will now have security clearance to work on Galileo, a colossal space project

At a gala event Monday evening in Jerusalem, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri and the head of the Israel Space Agency, Menachem Kidron, signed an agreement with European Union officials to give Israeli researchers and companies access to projects associated with the EU’s Galileo satellite program.

Officially called the Cooperation Agreement on a Civil Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) between the European Community and its Member States and the State of Israel, the deal was inked on the EU side by Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, and the incoming EU Ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen.

By the end of the decade, EU officials expect to have some 30 satellites in orbit, doing everything from checking out weather and climate patterns to monitoring outer space and providing GPS services to the world. While the satellites put into space by the US and Russia are perfectly serviceable, EU officials said, the European GNSS will be the only system to provide services like GPS from satellites run by a civilian organization instead of a military. In addition, the new satellites will provide more coverage, bandwidth, and availability of satellite-based services, as the demand for such services continues to grow.

As an official EU program that is not military in nature, the Galileo project will be open to absorbing technology from a wide variety of sources. As a result of the new agreement, Israel will be one of those sources, Israeli space officials said. Israeli companies will now be able to participate in tenders to supply software and hardware to companies involved in the project, and Israeli scientists and academics will be able to initiate and participate in studies and experiments that will be part of the Galileo program.

Israel had negotiated a similar but more-limited agreement with the EU about 15 years ago, but it was shelved when the European GNSS program faced difficulties getting off the ground. The new agreement is a major improvement over the old one, officials said, as it gives Israeli academics and companies security clearance to actually work on portions of the project.

Speaking at the event on Monday, Peri thanked Tajani for his efforts in fostering the agreement with Israel. “This agreement is a milestone in relations between Israel and the EU, and shows our mutual admiration for each other’s research and development capabilities. GPS capabilities have become a major part of our lives, and this agreement will lead to strategic, security, and economic cooperation between Israel and the EU in the coming years.”

Space research, said Kidron, “is an area that has moved forward aggressively in recent years, and has a great deal of influence on our quality of life. This agreement will enable Israeli companies to join an industry worth tens of millions of dollars, and enable Israeli researchers to widen their scope and participate in the most important projects in Europe.”