Nanosatellite Trio to Orbit Earth on a Gram of Fuel Per Day

A view of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, where nanosatellites were developed, for launch at the end of this week. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In the coming days, Israel plans to launch three nanosatellites into Earth orbit to test the viability of a new, Israel-based technology, The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.

If successful, the satellites, each about the size of a shoebox, will be used to monitor signals from emergency locator beacons used by ships, planes, explorers and hikers.

Running on a single gram of fuel a day, the satellites could provide a significantly cheaper means for monitoring of these systems.

“This is a significant step forward for Israeli space research and technology,” said Technion space scientist Pini Gurfil, said to be the mastermind behind the project. “This opens new possibilities for locator beacons, and for the miniaturization of satellites which is an important focus internationally, and seen as a disruptive innovation.”

A special fuel system, developed at the Technion, will allow each satellite to complete its mission on 400 grams of krypton, a gas often used to fill fluorescent light bulbs. This averages 133 grams of fuel per year, or 0.37 grams per satellite per day.

The “low-cost” $9 million satellite trio, funded by the Adelis Foundation and the Israeli Space Agency, has been in development for almost 10 years.

They are set to leave Earth from Kazakhstan aboard a Russian rocket and will be launched from the rocket four hours later, 30 miles above the surface of the earth, for a three-year orbit. They will orbit the Earth every 90 minutes.