The Micro-Satellite VENµS, the world’s smallest environmental satellite, designed and built by Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael, in collaboration with the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES), on Wednesday morning was shot into space from the launching pad in French Guiana.

France’s Guiana Space Center is located near the equator, using the Earth’s rotation to add to the initial launch velocity.


The VENµS satellite has a scientific and a technological mission, with the scientific mission requirements defined by Centre d’Etudes Spatiales de la BIOsphère, in France, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel, and CNES; and the technological mission requirement defined by Rafael.

The satellite has a 2-day revisit orbit which allows constant viewing angles at constant sun lighting angles. The unique combination is expected to help the development of new image processing methods. About 50 points of interest around the world have been chosen for scanning throughout the scientific mission. The VENµS will rescan these points every 2 days for the duration of the mission, collecting sensory and imagery data.

Some of the objectives from the scientific mission are: monitoring and analyzing surface under various environmental and human factors; developing and validating various ecosystem functioning models; improving and validating global carbon cycle models; defining theoretical and practical methods for scale transfer; and collecting and analyzing data picked up by the low spatial resolution sensors.

The VENµS satellite is equipped with a Super Spectral Camera comprising a catadioptric optical system, a focal plane assembly with narrow band filters, and 4 detector units with 3 separate CCD-TDI array, each array with separate operational and thermal control.

The satellite is also equipped with a Ritchey-Chretien telescope with a focal length of 1.75m and a diameter of 0.25m.

VENµS’s technological mission, using Israeli hall effect thrusters (IHET), is to demonstrate the thrusters’ enhanced capabilities and autonomous mission operations which include: orbit maintenance; LEO to LEO orbit transfer; enabling imaging mission in a high drag environment, performing the scientific mission at an altitude of 255 miles on an Earth repeating sun synchronous orbit.

The satellite is being ground controlled by IAI in Israel, which is linked to two sub-stations in charge of each of the missions: the scientific mission is being operated from Toulouse Space Center, France, and the technology mission is being controlled from the Technological Mission Center, Rafael, Haifa, Israel.