India and Israel have had a low-key cooperation in the space sector for about a decade now. The recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel is set to further the ties with an agreement that is expected to grow in scope and deepen developments.

Developing technologies

The agreement that Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inked focusses on developing technologies in the space sector. Collaboration in the areas of electric propulsion for small satellite, atomic clocks and GEO-LEO Optical Link were announced. Both leaders welcomed the ongoing ties between the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), according to an official statement from Jerusalem.

The agreement will put into motion ISA collaboration with other Indian companies. ISRO can look forward to carrying more satellites from Israel as well as receiving important technology support in developing small, high-resolution radar imaging satellites. In 2011, Israel had supplied India with a radar imaging satellite, later named RISAT-2.

Director-General of ISA, Avi Blasberger, was quoted as saying that the Indian launch capability was reliable and his country would look to send more satellites aboard Indian launchers in the near future. ISA and ISRO have some ongoing programmes, and the pact signed during Modi’s visit was the implementation agreement on a range of technologies that will be identified by both the countries.

Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO, can tap into future contracts for the PSLV, from educational, research and private companies in Israel. A nano satellite from Israel was one of the 104 satellites launched by ISRO in its record-breaking feat in February.


Preceding the launch, hectic activity was witnessed between the two countries. Dialogues for cooperation picked up with visits by ISRO scientist to Israel. The ISA chief had accompanied Israel’s Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis to India in December 2016. This was followed by the visit of the Director of Space Application Centre, earlier this year to work out further details of cooperation.

Building of small satellites in India by private companies from both sides and launch by the PSLV, will give scope for the domestic industry. Israel does not have the launch capability to place small satellite in near orbit.

The electric propulsion technology collaboration is a bright spot in the agreement. Though ISRO does not use it now, tie-ups for future satellites are crucial. The advantage is, it will help reduce the weight of the satellite, which in turn means that the launch vehicle can carry more satellites.

Lighter satellites and more weight-carrying capacity will translate into bigger commercial market. The development and tests of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III, which can place satellites weighing 4-10 tonnes, are very critical for ISRO to emerge a big player in the lucrative launch business.

The first launch of an Israeli satellite was done by the Indian space agency in 2008. The launch of TecSAR, a reconnaissance satellite with a synthetic aperture radar imaging, developed by Elta Systems, by PSLV C-10 in 2008 was controversial.

Big leap on cards

The initial hiccups for delays then were attributed to reasons ranging from international pressure to technical snags. The Modi-Netanyahu agreement is expected to be a big leap from those days.