Space: Colombia Does The Math


October 15, 2014: In South America Colombia recently announced that it was cancelling its contract to purchase a $250 million American photo and radar satellite. This satellite that would last seven years, meaning that it will cost $36 million a year. Government officials noted that currently Colombia currently pays about $6.5 million a year for similar services by various commercial satellite firms that charge by the job. Since no one in the government could present a reason to buy a lot more (like more than five times more) satellite services each year the deal to purchase a satellite had no economic purpose. The government did not believe the prestige value of Colombia having its own surveillance satellite was worth over $25 million a year.

Many nations do want their own surveillance satellites and there are several larger nations that will sell them one. Not just the United States and Russia, but also countries like Israel. In 2012 Italy ordered surveillance satellite from Israel. This Optsat 3000 photo satellite weighs under 400 kg (880 pounds) and will use a 600 kilometers high orbit. This is an improved version of the Israeli Ofek photo satellite. The first one of these went up in 1988 and the latest one (Ofek 9) went up in 2010 and weighs about 300 kg (660 pounds). The Ofek 9 has a new generation of sensors that are able to see objects as small as 55 cm (twenty inches). The Optsat 3000 will launch in 2015 and in the next two years two Italian made radar satellites will be launched. Italy plans to use these three satellites for its own needs as well as selling satellite services to other nations.

Israel also sells satellite launch services. Israel developed its own satellite launcher: Shavit. The first two stages of the Shavit are also used for the Israeli Jericho 3 IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile). With a range of nearly 5,000 kilometers, the Jericho 3 can drop a nuke anywhere in the Middle East. Jericho is a 30 ton, solid fuel, two stage missile, with a half-ton payload. Israel sometimes uses launchers from other nations. In 2008 an Israeli radar satellite, TekSar, was launched using an Indian launcher. In addition to Israeli built Ofek and TekSar birds, Israeli intelligence also uses Eros B and Eros A (Israeli civilian photo satellite) for some military missions.

It usually takes two years for Israel to build a new recon satellite and then it requires ten months to plan and carry out the launching, using an Israeli rocket. The satellite launch facility is located at the same Palmahim Air Base where Jericho 3 ballistic missiles and Arrow anti-missile missiles are also based.

The Italian spy satellite will cost $182 million and be part of a deal where Italy agreed to buy an equal value of Israeli military gear as part of a deal where Israel bought $993 million worth of Italian jet trainers. Italy managed to cover this with the purchase of two AWACs and a spy satellite from Israel.







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