(January 31, 2019 / JNS) A newly signed space cooperation agreement between two giant Israeli and German companies is a “milestone” for a future moon colony, said the director-general of the European Space Agency in Tel Aviv.
Professor Dr. Johann-Dietrich Wörner attended the Jan. 29 signing of a teaming agreement between Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Germany’s OHB Systems AG, a leading German satellite manufacturer.
The signing took place at the David Intercontinental Hotel during the 14th Ilan Ramon Space Conference, which was organized by the Israel Space Agency.
Opher Doron, general manager of the IAI Space Division, told JNS a day after the ceremony that under the agreement, the companies will offer the European Space Agency a commercial lunar-surface access service for scientific missions that will help pave the path for humanity’s journey into space.
IAI “will build the lander, accommodate payloads and integrate with the launcher,” while OHB “will manage the service commercialization and mission definition with prospective users,” the Israeli defense corporation said in a statement.
The European Space Agency is launching an initiative, called In-Situ Resource Utilization, which will involve sending landers to the moon to test out technologies for making oxygen, water and other raw materials from lunar soil. Such technologies are needed for eventual long-term human colonization outside of Earth.
“Today, within the European Space Agency, there is a range of missions being planned, dedicated to turning the moon into a more accessible place in terms of resources and turning it into a gateway for outer space,” said Doron.
“We are jointly offering services for getting to the moon. This is based on the idea that clients will not want to develop spaceships from scratch. They can rent out services to reach the moon, which are far cheaper,” he stated. “They’re looking for a ‘lift to the moon’ that is faster, cheaper and more accessible. That is what we are offering jointly with OHB.”
While the companies have not yet received an order, the presence of senior members of the European and German space agencies at the signing is an indication of real interest.
The spaceship made by IAI together with the SpaceIL company is “now being fueled for launch,” noted Doron, representing years of experience in developing a vehicle that can reach Earth’s closest neighbor.
“We’re taking engineering knowledge that we developed together with SpaceIL and developing it further. IAI would supply the lander, and OHS would manage the interface with the European Space Agency, and they will handle the marketing side,” he added.
SpaceIL’s Morris Kahn was present at the cooperation signing.
Marcho Fuchs, the CEO of OHB, said during the ceremony, “Exploring the moon and using it as a base is a logical next step for me that offers many advantages and opportunities. Landing on the surface of the moon, however, is still a challenge.”
“I look very much forward to bringing the OHB expertise into cooperation with IAI and to jointly tackling the challenges posed by future moon programs,” he added.
‘Take the space industry to new frontiers’
Nimrod Sheffer, IAI’s CEO and president, said that “IAI is proud to collaborate with a global satellite leader, as well as with Europe’s and Germany’s space agencies. This is a badge of honor for the Israeli space industry.”
Sheffer said that his company’s “technological knowhow acquired in the development and manufacturing of the Beresheet lunar lander with SpaceIL and the teaming with OHB allow us to partake in the advanced global research of outer space. We are proud of the opportunity to take the Israeli space industry to new frontiers and look forward to Beresheet’s launch and journey to the moon next month.”
The signing was also attended by Professor Pascale Ehrenfreund, chair of the executive board of the German Space Agency (DLR). “The German Aerospace Center appreciates the OHB IAI cooperation in the endeavor for lunar missions,” he said.
In February, the Israeli-made unmanned spacecraft will launch with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., destined for the moon.
SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit organization, has teamed up IAI to build the spacecraft. When it touches down on the lunar surface, Israel will join an exclusive club consisting of the United States, Russia and China, which have sent spacecraft to Earth’s nearest neighbor.