'If our rockets miss, we'll start a war' : What it's like running Israel's space agency

Professor Dan Blumberg says the world will come to rely on Israel's space tech


Prof. Dan Blumberg Deputy, Vice-President and Dean for Research and Development The Earth and Planetary Image Facility

An obsessive eye to detail is a quality all space scientists should possess – but when you’re responsible for launching rockets from Israel, the need for precision is arguably of even greater importance.

The head of Israel’s Space Agency has revealed just how careful the organisation’s scientists must be when launching rockets, explaining even the smallest error could trigger a war with neighbouring countries.

“Israel is not like other countries with space programmes,” said Professor Dan Blumberg, who is also Vice President of Regional and Industrial Development at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev,

“We have to be certain our rockets only shoot directly upwards, or we risk starting a war.”

Blumberg spoke to the JC ahead of a visit to the UK this week, during which he hopes to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the field of space technology.

The man leading the Jewish peoples’ efforts on the final frontier insisted that space tech and the work of building Israel’s economy are “interconnected” and that countries such as the US “will absolutely come to rely” on Israel’s expertise in the coming years.

“Space tech is crucial to Israel's security, prosperity, and global competitiveness,” he said. “Israelis have a great appetite and curiosity for space, which speaks to the success of that sector here.” 

In 2019, Israel became the seventh country in the world to achieve lunar orbit, and the fourth country, behind only the US, the Soviet Union, and China, to attempt a soft landing on the moon – though that attempt ended with a crash.

ISA’s flagship project, its Ultrasat telescope, will be launched into space in cooperation with Nasa in early 2026, becoming the first Israeli-built telescope to achieve orbit. It has the capability to “revolutionise” our ability to discover and analyse transient events such as stellar explosions, or supernovae, and could provide up to 100 times more volume of space to observe, according to the agency.

“Ultrasat’s objective is to provide a wide field of view into deep space and to make observations so that the high-resolution telescopes that Nasa has can then look at events in deep space directly,” said Blumberg.

“At the moment, they don’t have that wide field of view. We’re going to act as the information centre for other space agencies so they can direct their satellites at the correct observation points. 

"Other countries will absolutely come to rely on Israeli tech in space, just as they rely on some Israeli tech on Earth,” he added. 

Reflecting on the global climate crisis, Blumberg said that viewing Earth from space is “the most efficient way to objectively observe, come to understand, and then counter” changes in the climate.

Advancements in satellite technology, he said, is “indispensable when facing environmental challenges and in combatting climate change”. 

The government-funded Israel Space Agency was created in 1983, but now the start-up nation is also leading the way in transitioning space to the private sector.  

Blumberg said: “The field of space is currently going through what happened in the cyber-security field a little more than a decade ago. We’ve moved from only nation-based investments in space to private investments and the private sector…  

“We are seeing it both in the US with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Starlink, and in Israel with SpaceIL who four years ago successfully reached the moon – though in a few more pieces than they intended and with a harder landing.” 

Professor Blumberg will be speaking at South Hampstead Synagogue on June 21, and at Rosenblatt, 165 Fleet Street, on June 22.

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