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Paris, 12 april 2005



Yannick d'Escatha, President of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), and Zvi Kaplan, Director General of the Israel Space Agency (ISA), have signed today in Paris an agreement on Earth observation and technology development. Under this agreement, the Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Micro-Satellite (VENųS) mission will be operated from 2008.

ISA and CNES first signed an agreement on 11 April 1994 that formally established space cooperation between France and Israel. In 1997, the two agencies envisioned working together on microsatellites. In December 2003, the objectives of the VENµS mission were defined to cover parts of the strategic areas of sustainable development and future applications. These objectives will be achieved by:
- A camera with 5.3 meters resolution and 12 spectral bands to monitor ground features, mainly vegetation condition and water quality;
- A low-thrust station-keeping system using electric propulsion.

VENµS is a research mission geared toward demonstrating the efficiency of optimized multi-spectral observation in the framework of the European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme (GMES programme). It will cover every other day 50 representative sites of the world’s main terrestrial and coastal ecosystems in 12 spectral bands in the visible and near-infrared regions.

Prior to deploying future operational space-based infrastructures, the VENµS mission will be to:
- Enable significant advances in understanding and modelling of continental land surfaces, by combining space-based and in-situ observations with vegetation and soil models;
- Promote research procedures of monitoring water quality in the coastal plan and inland water bodies.
- Help to improve how terrestrial surfaces are represented in meteorology, climate, and carbon models;
- And demonstrate the value of this kind of observation for sustainable land management, decision support, and environmental monitoring and surveillance.

The scientific mission requirements were commonly formulated by France (Cesbio) and Israel (Ben Gurion University).

France will be responsible for the science mission centre, scientific data processing centre , programming centre, and payload. CNES is planning to subcontract El-Op – Elbit Ltd for the development and manufacturing of the multi-spectral camera.

Israel will be responsible for the spacecraft bus (including the hybrid propulsion system and payloads integration), the delivery of technological data, the control centre, and the mirror data processing centre.

The Government of Israel (through the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment) in cooperation with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Rafael will finance jointly the Israeli share in the VENS program. ISA will contract a new company to be established jointly by IAI and Rafael for the development and manufacturing of the satellite and the Ionic Propulsion System and for the implementation of the project.

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