ISI develops a Shading Satellite to ease Global Warming

ImageSat International (ISI) has joined a demonstrator satellite development project to address the global climate crisis. This satellite will be used to test the feasibility of deploying shading sails between the Sun and the Earth, with the aim of potentially reducing global warming by up to one and a half degrees. ISI is collaborating with the Asher Space Institute at the Technion (Haifa, Israel) , led by Prof. Yaakov Rozen, and the National Center for Space and Science at the UAE University. The cooperation agreement has recently been signed, and the parties are seeking out additional partnership opportunities.

ISI’s CTO, Doron Shterman, told Techtime that the goal is to launch the satellite within the next 3–4 years, with an estimated cost of tens of millions of dollars. The satellite that will be positioned at a fixed location (Lagrange point 1), approximately 1.5 million kilometers above the surface of the Earth (150 million kilometers away from the sun’s surface). Once positioned, the satellite will deploy a wide sail aimed at controlling the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth from the sun. This groundbreaking concept was born at the Technion.

Space sunshade

Lagrange points are locations where gravitational forces achieve equilibrium, enabling objects to maintain a fixed position relative to the sun and the Earth. Lagrange 1 is located approximately 1.5 million kilometers from Earth and 150 million kilometers from the sun. Shterman: “As L1 is not entirely stable, maintaining the satellite’s position in space will require a significant amount of energy. We plan to achieve this by controlling the sail and adjusting its tilt, allowing the satellite to orbit around the L1 point with a precision level of 12,500 kilometers.

“In order for the idea of climate control to materialize, a huge sail is required or, alternatively, an array of many satellites equipped with smaller sails. We are currently exploring various deployment and shading methods. One potential approach involves harnessing the lectromagnetic properties of the material to regulate the amount of solar energy that passes through the sail, thereby allowing control over the level of shading. The demonstrator satellite allows us to investigate sail-controlling technologies, analyze optical characteristics, implement passive stabilization means, and more.”

Strategic Overhaul

The satellite will be positioned in its final location in a gradual manner. “Currently, there are no rocket-powered vehicles capable of directly launching satellites to L1 . Instead, there are launchers that can put the satellite into an elliptical orbit and gradually ascend to L1 , much like reaching the moon.” According to Shterman, one of the project’s objectives is to address international regulatory issues. “As of today, there are no specific regulations regarding interventions for global warming. However, it is evident that such regulations are necessary, since a project of this scale requires extensive global cooperation.”

ImageSat International is primarily known as a provider of space-based intelligence solutions, mainly based on IAI’s (Israel Aerospace Industries) EROS observation satellites. Over the past five years, the company has expanded its capabilities by developing and manufacturing its own satellites, such as the Knight model, renowned as one of the smallest military satellites in the industry. Weighing only 180 kg, it can capture images of 4 km sampling strips with 50 cm resolution. Additionally, ISI has collaborated with US-based Tyvak to create the Runner satellite. Weighing merely 86 kg, it provides imagery with a resolution of 70 cm and sampling strips of 5.6 km.

Translated by P. Ofer