The Israeli-French Satellite, VENμS, monitors vegetation on Earth using innovative propulsion and earth observation systems
Photo: Tal Rozencruntz, Photography Division Bezalel
Israel Aerospace Industries & Rafael Advanced Defense Systems ; Elbit Electro-Optics Elop Ltd.
Venμs is an earth observation and exploratory mission of the Israel Space Agency (ISA) – a government body sponsored by the country’s Ministry of Science & Technology – and the French CNES space agency (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales).
The satellite has a twofold objective:
1. Scientific: Frequent revisits (up to two days) of scientific sites spread worldwide for the study and evolution of vegetation, and for environmental purposes.
2. Technological: In-flight qualification of the Israeli Electrical Propulsion System.
While the satellite’s designation may sound like the name of a planet, it actually is the acronym for: Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro Satellite.
Venμs is equipped with a multi-spectral camera that can capture important details, some of them which are not visible to the human eye. The camera operates in 12 wavelengths that work simultaneously. It takes 12 simultaneous images of the same location - each in different spectral bands, including those in the near-infrared range. These separate images are processed into one very precise complete color photograph.
The satellite images vast areas around the globe and provide dozens of images every day, each of them covering approximately 760 square kilometers. Venμs flies in a Sun-synchronous, near-polar orbit – which enables its return to view each area around the world, exactly at the same time and under the same imagery conditions.
By analyzing and comparing the images taken from the same location, researchers will be able to assess the state of the soil, understand how vegetation is developing, and detect the spreading of disease or contamination in the field.
The technological payload of Venμs comprises a unique electric propulsion system, which is based on Hall-Effect thrusters. Such an electrical propulsion system allows for minimizing the mass of hydrazine chemical propellant while achieving flexible orbital maneuvers that can be affected online, considerably extending the lifetime. In order to reduce the mission's risk, Venμs is also equipped with a redundant common chemical propulsion system.
The satellite's overall size is only 1.7 X 1.2 meters, with a wingspan of 4.4 meters when the solar array is extended.
CNES is in charge of the multi-spectral instrument (camera), the image processing and the image distribution ground station. Elbit Electro-Optic Systems, Elop Ltd. developed the camera for CNES.
ISA is in charge of development and integration of the satellite, the platform, the monitoring and control center, and the electrical propulsion system. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was the main integrator of the system, as well as the developer of the platform and the ground control system. Rafael is the developer of the electric propulsion system.
The launch service was shared equally by the agencies.
The satellite is operated from four ground facilities located in Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel, as well as from Toulouse in France and Kiruna in Sweden.