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NASA to Launch Israel’s First Space Telescope

An illustration of the ULTRASAT satellite.
Credits: Weizmann Institute

London, 22 February 2023. – NASA will launch Israel’s first space telescope mission, the Ultraviolet Transient Astronomy Satellite (ULTRASAT). ULTRASAT, an ultraviolet observatory with a large field of view, will investigate the secrets of short-duration events in the universe, such as supernova explosions and the mergers of neutron stars.

ULTRASAT is planned for launch into geostationary orbit around Earth in early 2026, led by the Israel Space Agency and Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to providing the launch service, NASA will participate in the mission’s science program.

“This is a breakthrough project that places Israel at the forefront of global research,” says Eli Waxman, astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and ULTRASAT’s head researcher. “Leading international bodies such as NASA and the DESY research institute have joined this Israeli-led project as partners, having recognized its scientific significance.”

ULTRASAT’s wide field of view will allow the telescope to quickly discover and capture ultraviolet light from sources in the cosmos that change on short timescales. Researchers will combine ULTRASAT’s observations of the short-term events with information from a variety of other missions, including the study of gravitational waves and particles. The results will shed light on the workings of everything from black holes and gravitational wave sources to supernovae and active galaxies. 

“We are proud to join this partnership, an international effort that will help us better understand the mysteries of the hot, transient universe,” says Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “ULTRASAT will give the global science community another important capability for making new observations in the nascent field of time domain and multimessenger astrophysics programs.”

In the agreement between NASA and the Israel Space Agency, NASA will provide the launch opportunity, Flight Payload Adapter, and other launch-related responsibilities for ULTRASAT. The Israel Space Agency will deliver the completed observatory to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch.

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