Rafael has presented its first satellite concept to the Brazilian market, which it hopes will fulfil an emerging requirement from the country for an observation satellite constellation.

LiteSat is a constellation formed of low-cost, nano electro-optical satellies, which are designed to be operated several at a time.

"What we are developing is a new concept concept that is part of the new space - to have a mission fulfilled by a constellation of small satellites," Yaaqov Sharony, microsatellite system programmes manager at the company, says.

He adds that the cost of every satellite needs to be low, but the performance can not be compromised, including the standard of resolution. This comprises a 50cm colour image resolution in the case of the LiteSat.

Several satellites can be launched at once due to the size of each one, and Rafael envisions constellations of 16 satellites being used. This number would total four orbits, with each orbit being deployed using one launcher.

"With this concept, we can have good imagery and good revisit time," Sharony said.

Brazil is a vast land, and in order to gain control in terms of surveillance, satellites are required, he added. The country has a requirement for such a capability, although a formal request is yet to be released.

"It is not a formal requirement yet, but it should be soon," Sharony notes. "This solution is a good fit, but not just for Brazil."

He adds that the concept has a dual use, and can also be utilised for civilian applications, including humanitarian relief. Rafael envisions this being available on a services basis, so the company will launch and operate the constellation and provide data to the customer. Sharony says that Rafael expects that most of the custom for LiteSat will be for data services.

The concept is not yet operational, but will be soon, and the launch site is to be determined based on the customer: "We hope we'll be able to launch it in a few years," Sharony said.

The satellites will have an operational life of seven years, and this the first full satellite system that Rafael has developed, having only had experience in subsystems like launchers prior to this.

Beth Stevenson


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