Heads of Israel's Space Industry Called for Emergency Meeting Following Satellite Explosion

Losing AMOS-6 satellite in Florida explosion requires national resources to be committed to local space industry, lawmaker and Knesset panel head says.

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SpaceX explosion destroying AMOS-6 satellite on September 1, 2016.
SpaceX explosion destroying AMOS-6 satellite on September 1, 2016.Credit: Screenshot of USLaunchReport

Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis called the heads of Israel's space industry on Friday for an emergency meeting, following the explosion in Florida of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Israeli communications satellite, AMOS-6.

The cause of the explosion that destroyed the Israeli satellite, dealing a blow to Israel's space plans, is still unclear. The satellite, built by Israel Aerospace Industries and operated by Israeli company Spacecom, in partnership with France’s Eutelsat Communications, was set to provide services to Israeli telecom networks and to be part of Facebook’s Internet.org platform to expand Internet access to remote areas. It was meant to be operational for the next 16 years.

Israel's space agency, which in answers to Akunis' ministry, said it would “continue to support the space industries in Israel with the goal of maintaining them at the forefront of technology and preserving Israel’s critical independence, particularly in the area of satellite communication."

Meanwhile in Knesset, the chairman of a subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services announced the panel would be convened to discuss the implications of the explosion.  

This will be the second meeting of the committee in recent weeks about Israel’s space program.

Video of Florida space center explosion.Credit: ABC

The explosion “places the Israeli space industry in an even more serious position than what we say a few weeks ago,” MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), who chairs the panel, a subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said. He noted that the matter was critical and said “the required national resources” had to be committed to it.

The explosion Thursday, near the Kennedy Space Center, tore through the launch site during a test firing of the Falcon 9 rocket, owned by SpaceX, ahead of the launch of the communications satellite AMOS-6, which had been scheduled for before dawn on Saturday.

SpaceX, under the leadership of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, said in a statement there were no injuries, but that an "anomaly" during the static fire test resulted in the loss of the rocket and the Israeli communications satellite it had been due to carry into space at the weekend.