NASA will launch Israeli space telescope

NASA will launch in 2026 the first Israeli space telescope designed to investigate short-term cosmic events.
An image of the Israeli space telescope ULTRASAT. Credit: ISA

NASA to launch the first Israeli space telescope, the Ultraviolet Transient Astronomy Satellite (ULTRASAT). ULTRASAT is an ultraviolet observatory with a wide field of view. The telescope will investigate the secrets of short-lived events in the universe, such as supernova explosions and neutron star mergers.

ULTRASAT and its features

Led by the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) and the Weizmann Institute of Science, ULTRASAT is expected to be launched into geostationary orbit around the Earth in early 2026. In addition to providing the launch service, NASA will also participate in the mission’s scientific program.

“We are proud to be part of this international partnership. An effort that will help us better understand the mysteries of the hot and transient universe” said Mark Clampin, director of NASA’s astrophysics division. “ULTRASAT will give the global scientific community another important capability for making new observations”.

ULTRASAT’s wide field of view will allow researchers to quickly discover and capture ultraviolet light from rapidly changing sources in the cosmos. Researchers will combine ULTRASAT’s observations with information from a variety of other missions, including those studying gravitational waves and particles, a field known as time-domain and multimessenger astronomy. The results will shed light on the workings of many objects, from black holes to gravitational wave sources to supernovae and active galaxies.

Partner statements

“Pioneering science requires cutting-edge technology” said Uri Oron, director of the ISA at the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology. “ULTRASAT, with its wide field of view, advanced ultraviolet sensitivity, and real-time data control and transfer, will be at the forefront of technological developments. The Israeli space industry can provide these capabilities. ISA is proud of the collaboration with NASA for the launch and management of the first Israeli space telescope”.

“This is a revolutionary project that puts Israel at the forefront of global research” said Eli Waxman, astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and chief researcher of ULTRASAT. “Leading international entities such as NASA and the DESY research institute have joined as partners in this project led by Israel. They are investing significant resources in the construction and launch of the satellite to become active participants in this mission. It is a science-led partnership”.

Through the agreement, NASA will provide the launch opportunity, Flight Payload Adapter, and other launch-related responsibilities for ULTRASAT. ISA, on the other hand, will deliver the completed observatory to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ready for launch.

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