Israel and Brazil have reached an agreement in principle on space cooperation. Under the agreement, Israel may use its Shavit satellite launcher from Brazil's Alcantara Space Center. Minister of Science and Technology Eliezer Sandberg and Brazil Minister of Science and Technology Roberto Amaral signed the agreement last April. Amaral recently notified Israel's Ambassador to Brazil Daniel Gazit that the Brazilian government had approved the implementation of the agreement, and was interested in putting space at the center of joint R&D programs.
Israel's geographical location is problematical. Space satellites are usually launched eastwards to exploit earth's rotation. However, an eastward launch from Israel would cause the booster to fall in Jordan, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia. For this reason, Israel is the only country to launch its satellites westward, over the Mediterranean, losing a third of the booster's capacity in the process.
In addition, Alcantara is close to the equator, where the earth's rotation is fastest, providing the maximum boost for satellite launches.
"Unlike the Americans and Europeans' fixed boosters, Israel's launcher is mobile," Israel Space Agency director-general Aby Har-Even told "Globes". "It is placed on a specially-designed vehicle that carries it to the launch site. This is a major advantage. In principle, we could launch it from anywhere in the world." He said companies were now launching satellites from planes, and Israel had developments plans in this direction.
A satellite launch can cost up to $80 million, the cost to launch the Amos civilian communications satellite. Israel paid only $450,000 to launch Technion - Israel Technology Institute's micosatellite project, TechSat, using a Russian booster that carried another five satellites.
Israel launched its first satellite, Ofek 1, in 1988.
The Israeli Embassy in Brazil declined to respond to "Globes"' questions on the subject. Sandberg said, "Cooperation of this kind increases the access of Israeli scientists and Israel's aerospace industry to international resources, encourages the establishment of joint projects, and enables each party to benefit from the other's existing developments.
Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on August 14, 2003