In December, we brought you a story showing that 2023 could be the year that space technology explodes in Israel. Now we’ll focus on some of the top companies to watch in this field.
Space has captured the imagination of Israel’s tech industry since Israel’s first lunar lander crashed on the moon in April 2019.
Start-Up Nation Central Consulting Group today counts around 50 companies and academic institutions working in Israel’s space technology industry. Here we look at nine of the most promising startups.
SpacePharma makes medicines in outer space.
“The absence of gravity on molecules means we can make our tests easier and faster,” Vitaly Rukin, project manager and engineer at Spacepharma, told ISRAEL21c.
The company has conducted experiments on the International Space Station and two years ago teamed up with the Italian space agency to launch autonomous satellites in an atmospheric “locked box” at body temperature. The system is remotely controlled by SpacePharma personnel on Earth.
Experiments looked at how to develop a more effective calcium supplement, the effects of radiation on DNA, how microgravity affects antibiotic resistance, and whether zero gravity makes meat produced tastier.
Israeli astronaut Ethan Stiebe brought one of Spacepharma’s four-kilo-foot box-sized labs to the International Space Station.
“You just need to put in the energy and communication,” Rukin explained. I waited until it touched down again in Florida to get it back. SpacePharma plans to conduct experiments on Beresheet 2’s orbiting component.
If humans are to live on other planets, they need food and air.
Israeli space technology start-up Helios is developing technology to produce fuel – and eventually even respiration – entirely from lunar soil to avoid the high cost of transporting oxygen from Earth.
Fuel is more important than providing oxygen for breathing, because the heavier the load, the more fuel it needs. By private space companies like SpaceX, rocket boosters for repeated visits to the moon may need thousands of tons of oxygen per year.
Helios will reach the Moon starting in 2025 with the LSAS Lunar Landing System, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and Germany’s OHB.
Helios founder and CEO Jonathan Giffman said, “Oxygen will be the most sought-after commodity in space, as it will account for more than 60% of the fully loaded spacecraft mass designated for missions to the Moon and beyond.”
The technology basically “melts” lunar soil at 1,600 degrees Celsius and then produces oxygen that can be stored for use through electrolysis.
CSpace is one of several startups created by Starburst Aerospace. The company’s goal is to create an “observation center” that looks down on Earth using telescopes mounted on nanosatellites.
Amateur astronomers who can’t afford a $10,000 telescope can indulge in their hobby by paying a monthly subscription fee of about $10 to CSpace.
Five months after the company joined Starburst, it raised $7.5 million. “This is a good demonstration that the model works and we are paying off,” Starburst Managing Director Noemi Aliel told ISRAEL21c.
Ramon.space develops space-resistant, radiation-enhanced software and hardware, as well as supercomputers for the space sector.
Such systems can be used to develop and improve real-time applications in space, creating new opportunities for satellite payloads and deep space missions.
The company’s artificial intelligence and machine learning-based technologies have been used in satellites and on more than 50 space missions.
Ramon.Space software allows satellites to communicate directly instead of going through an intermediate ground station. The satellites can receive post-production upgrades and maintenance, which will extend the life, functionality and utility of the satellite.
Ramon.Space is partnering with another Israeli space technology startup, Lulav.Space, to provide an advanced navigation system for the Beresheet 2 lunar mission.
5. Brain. Space
Astronaut Ethan Stiebe wore a helmet equipped with an EEG tracking device from Israeli startup Brain.space when he launched to the International Space Station earlier this year.
“We know that the microgravity environment affects physiological indicators in the body,” said CEO Yair Levy. “So maybe it has an effect on the brain and we want to monitor it.”
Astronauts have long collected data on their hearts, skin and muscles in space, but no one has yet measured brain activity. Brain.space’s EEG helmet sports 460 “air brushes” that connect to the head. The astronauts were instructed to perform various tasks for 20 minutes a day. Data will be uploaded to a laptop on the space station.
Brain.space has already demonstrated the system on Earth; Now the company compares EEG data to see the difference in brain activity between Earth and space. In this regard, Levy says, “Space is an accelerator.”
Brain.space has raised $8.5 million and is working with the Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
6. Volume wheel
Protecting people from radiation is even more critical in space than it is on Earth. Stemrad develops high-tech protective equipment against the threat of astronauts (as well as first responders, military personnel and medical teams operating closer to home).
In the year In 2018, Stemrad signed an agreement with NASA to test the Israeli company’s plastic and polyethylene in space. The AstroRad vest, which protects bone marrow and other stem cell-rich organs in the abdomen and pelvis, was developed in collaboration with Lockheed Martin.
Typical radiation levels in low Earth orbit can be 100 times higher than background levels experienced by people living in tropical regions on Earth. Moreover, the radiation can be especially harmful for women because it affects the breasts and ovaries disproportionately. The Stemrad vest provides special protection for those organs, enabling the first woman to walk on the moon.
Although massive (ranging from six to 65 cm deep, depending on the area of the body the suit protects), the Stemrad suit is light enough to wear during routine missions on long missions in the solar system, according to the company.
Jerusalem-based AccuBeat builds miniature precision watches for deep space missions as well as for defense applications such as radar, intelligence gathering and missile detection. (AccuBeat is part of Israel’s Iron Dome system.)
The company’s ultra-stable oscillator is expected to be accurate to minus 10 per 14th of a second in space — “a million times better than our clock,” says CEO Benny Levy.
What’s more, AccuBeat says its watches will still be running 15 years down the road. The AccuBeat system has accordingly been selected for a mission to Jupiter’s moons, which will take at least seven years to reach.
Atomic clocks are not just for telling time. It requires very precise time synchronization to provide secure radio transmissions that adversaries cannot intercept or jam. The opposite is true: AccuBeat technology helps the military triangulate enemy radar and locate enemy missiles.
On Earth, GPS systems include an atomic clock that transmits a signal from Earth to a satellite to synchronize the correct time. Without it, hackers can “spoof” the GPS, causing a pilot or ship captain to go off course. AccuBeat has shipped over 100 watches from Hawaii to China.
8. Space plasma
It is predicted that 14,000 small satellites will be launched into space by the end of the decade. Each of them needs small rockets. That’s where SpacePlasmatics comes in.
The company is developing “plasma thrusters” – electrically powered rockets, no bigger than a finger – that get their power from solar cells. A second, more powerful version of the product is roughly the size of a tennis ball.
The company was founded in 2021 based on technology developed by CEO Igal Kronhaus when he was in the technology industry.
“Plasma is the fourth state of matter,” Kronhaus explained to the Israeli publication Citec. “The hotter the ionized gas, the more electrons are torn from the atoms. This creates a mixture of gases with freely moving electrons and ions.
Space plasmatic thrusters first generate plasma from a propellant and then accelerate ions through an electric field to create thrust.
These solar-powered launchers could solve the “space junk” problem by placing the tiny rocket on equally small satellites to allow their ground-based operators to get out of the way.
The six-person company hopes to have the product ready for demonstration in orbit within the next two years.
9. WeSpace Technologies
Once we get to the Moon or Mars, we’ll need vehicles to help us navigate the terrain. WeSpace is developing powered, wheeled flying robots known as “hoppers” to get us from here to there on the alien landscape.
Less than 5% of the Moon has been explored. Land-based rovers have trouble with some steep and rugged terrain. Also, ground vehicles lack the speed, mobility and connectivity to travel long distances.
The WeSpace solution: fly, don’t drive. Hoppers can autonomously map very large areas of the lunar surface and even explore underground lava tubes and caves.
WeSpace believes it can jumpstart the emerging space economy by offering “lunar exploration as a service,” selling data collected by astronauts to interested parties on Earth. WeSpace CTO Yigal Harel was previously program director of the Bereshet lunar lander.