International bid to build the Amos-8 satellite could jeopardize Israel's communications

Last September Israel's communications satellite industry suffered a blow after the Israeli built Amos-6 satellite exploded during a test ahead of its launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Today, the Knesset's Science Committee discussed whether Israel will take on and fund the building of its replacement, the Amos-8, given the national importance of Israeli-independent communications systems.
Amos-6 being built at the Israel Aerospace Industries ltd. Photo Credit: IAI/Channel 2 News

Will Israel build the Amos-8 satellite? During the Israeli Knesset Science and Technology Committee’s meeting today (Monday), the future of Israel’s communications satellites was discussed, close to a year after the field suffered a major blow when the Amos-6 satellite exploded during a test last September ahead of its scheduled launch. "The planning teams have already been broken up, acquisitions have stopped and soon enough so will the entire project’s activities,” said Opher Doron, head of Israel Aerospace Industries’ MBT Space Division.

"Satellites continue to circle around the world," Doron said. "We aren’t waiting for the State of Israel. We’re paying a lot of money to lease the satellite that replaced Amos-6. Unfortunately, an international bid has been announced for the Amos-8 satellite that will replace it, and an international company is likely to win, ending Israel's ability to provide satellite communications."

The Amos-6 due for launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

Committee Chairman MK Uri Maklev noted that although Israel is a leader in the field, it won’t continue to be if resources won't be invested. "The subject of communications satellites should be a national mission," he said. "This is a real need for the state. We cannot depend on foreign satellites, certainly not during times of emergency. Our sensitive information and communication services cannot be in the hands of foreigners. This is a national and public matter.”

Israeli Science Minister Ofir Akunis responded at the committee meeting. "We are waiting for the finance minister's decision regarding funding for the plan submitted by the ministry's director-general and the expert team convened in the wake of the [Amos-6] explosion," he said, "After we receive a green light and we know there is money, we will bring this forward to the Cabinet.”

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