Joseph Weiss

Title: President and CEO, Israel Aerospace Industries

Education: Bachelor of Science with honors in Mechanical Engineering from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; Masters of Business Administration from Tel Aviv University

Career: May 2012-Present—President/CEO, IAI

2006-12: Head of IAI’s Missiles & Space Group

2003-06: General manager of IAI’s MBT Space Div.

1998: Joined IAI after 27 years in the Israeli navy, where he managed several major advanced missile and defense system programs

During the Farnborough International Airshow this month, Israel Aerospace Industries CEO and President Joseph Weiss talked with Paris Bureau Chief Amy Svitak, about plans to expand the company’s presence in the global space sector with exports of remote-sensing and communications satellites. 

AW&ST: How are things progressing with Amos 6, the commercial communications satellite you are developing with MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates for Spacecom?

Weiss: Amos 6, which is based mainly on the Amos 4 design, offers advanced flexibility, and the platform is now being developed for both commercial and government use. We eventually want to provide the market with an all-electric propulsion design that will result in a much lighter-weight satellite. We are investing in the technology and believe we will be able to offer it within a year.

You recently launched the second-generation Ofeq 10 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite for the Israeli defense ministry. How is it performing?

It is working well and the images we are getting are astonishing. It’s a military satellite, so the resolution is classified, but it is better than anticipated. Testing is going according to plan and soon the satellite will be delivered to the ministry. This gives us a good feeling about our position as we start to think about the direction of SAR applications based on the experience gained with the first and second generations.

When will the VENuS [Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro-Satellite] launch?

VENuS is a science satellite the Israeli Space Agency is developing with French space agency CNES. Most of the satellite is supplied by IAI, with the ground station and scientific research provided by CNES. It will be launched in 2016, probably by a European Vega rocket, but advanced negotiations are still in progress and have not been concluded. The satellite was delayed for awhile due to some technical issues, but these have been overcome.

How is work progressing on the new OptSat 3000 for the Italian government?

OptSat 3000 was originally aimed for the military market, with extremely high resolution. Like all IAI satellites, it is very lightweight, just 350 kg [772 lb.] but with very high maneuverability and agility. The weight is important, because the lighter you are, the more you can enhance agility to collect more images. OptSat 3000 is offering exceptional performance at what will be an attractive price. It is going to be the baseline for the commercial EROS Earth-observation satellites, the baseline for the satellite we’re building with the Italians, and for some global marketing activities.

Does the recent decision by the U.S. government to lower satellite-resolution limits help or hurt?

I believe it will relieve us of all kinds of constraints we might have had, in terms of selling both satellites and images—not just hardware, but services, which are also controlled by international resolution limitations. But we are reaching a point where one more centimeter or five more centimeters, to most customers, are not that important. We have to be careful in terms of playing with the resolution while keeping a constant eye on the regular commercial market, which doesn’t necessarily want to invest the money and other resources for very-high resolution. This means I can dance with a leg in both markets.

What will IAI and subsidiary

ImageSat International (ISI) offer to emerging space economies that are often more interested in hardware than imagery and services?

Many small countries want their own satellites. In spite of the fact that DigitalGlobe and other companies sell imagery on the commercial market, most countries want their own, and we are trying to position ourselves like Italy, France and others to customize a package that includes the satellites on the one hand, and very good services  or interim services with ISI.

Where are you marketing remote-sensing satellites and services? 

We are pursuing opportunities in South and Central America and in the Far East; of course the government of Israel is our main customer. We just launched Ofeq 10, Amos 4 and we are working on Amos 6, so there is never a dull moment. These are the main markets we are pursuing today.