Research and development

Samson Project

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In a development - the first of its kind- three nano-satellites will be launched that will orbit the Earth in a cluster flight.
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  • Prof. Pini Gurfil | Photo: Yoav Dudakvich
Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Technion
The groundbreaking Samson Project is the first of its kind and promoted by the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science.  As part of this project, Technion researchers are planning to launch a cluster flight of three nano-satellites.  At the end of 2015, the project, spearheaded by Prof. Pini Gurfil of the Aeronautical and Space Engineering Faculty and the Asher Space Research Institute at the Technion, will launch three nano-satellites, of up to 8-kilograms each, which will fly together in a controlled flight cluster.  The nano-satellites will communicate with one another and spend more than one year in space. They will be installed with measurement equipment, antennas, computer systems, control systems and navigation instruments.  The software and algorithms that will manage the flight were also developed at the Distributed Space Systems Laboratory at the Technion’s Asher Space Research Institute. 
The satellites will receive signals from Earth and calculate the location of the signal source in order to locate and identify people in distress.  The main purpose of the project is to prove that it is possible to maintain orbiting satellites in formation for one year at a height of 600 km. above the ground, which has never before been attempted. From a technological standpoint, the project will illustrate how to manage a squadron of satellites in space without the use of fuel.  The satellites can serve as a body for future satellites and thereby reduce development costs.
In addition, for the first time, the satellites will demonstrate the autonomous activity of miniature systems in space, which will have the same capabilities as the much larger and more expensive satellites.  To this end, scientists are planning to install, for the first time, a propulsion system on each of the satellites.  This system was developed at Rafael to suit the miniature size and structure of the satellites, while preserving a great deal of propulsion power.   In addition to the propulsion system, the satellites will store energy through solar panels that will be deployed at the sides of each box and serve as wings that will propel the structure without the use of fuel, using the wind’s resistance in the atmosphere.  This is the first time that solar panels have been deployed on a structure of this size, which posed a design challenge for the researchers. 
The Samson Project’s future applications, which will include other companies, such as IAI, ELTA and Refael Advanced Defence Systems, are both technological and commercial in nature.   This is the first project of its kind to use a propulsion system based on cold-gas; and consequently, it will be possible to develop commercial systems like these for a variety of future nano-satellites.  The designated payload developed for the project will contribute to the technological development used for locating people, jets and radiant systems from space - using a nano-satellite system for the first time ever. 

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