July 29, 2009, Updated September 12, 2012

When NASA needed help storing data from its lunar space probe it turned to Israeli company Sital Technology for the technology. Now other space projects are underway.

In June, NASA launched the first Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a probe that is performing 3-D mapping of the moon and exploring its surface in search of potential landing sites. The lunar probe’s cameras capture high- and low-resolution images of the moon.The data gathered by the probe is being stored with the help of Sital Technology, a prominent Israel-based company that specializes in military communications, network design, and DSP and image processing. In space, the storing of information and the communication between the various systems inside the probe can be a tricky business, Sital founder Ofer Hofman tells ISRAEL21c.

“The issue is that in space you encounter problems from radiation that don’t exist on earth. Electronic equipment doesn’t work very well in space,” Hofman explains. “The main problem is that if you store information in memory in space, the information that ends up being stored is not necessarily the original information that was stored, because of the effects of radiation. You have to design systems in a very specific way to overcome this problem.”

NASA discovered Sital four years ago, when the company launched its website. Sital’s internet presence, which details the capabilities of its technology, quickly drew international attention. In addition to its work with NASA, Sital also provides technology to space agencies in Spain, Italy, Argentina, Portugal and France.

NASA gives Sital superior rating

Initially, Sital was in competition with US-based companies that manufacture similar products, but the accuracy and reliability of Sital’s IP core technology was found to be superior to that of the other candidates.

“NASA tested our technology and compared it to other options,” relates Hofman. “They later posted a comparison between our core and another on the internet, and explained why our core was significantly better than the competition.”

The IP core technology designed by Sital is inside a chip, which is inside a lunar probe. The IP core facilitates the smooth and reliable communication of data between the systems inside the probe, which is all the more important since there is no human being there to direct the mission.

“In order to accomplish the mission of the satellite, there are units that have to communicate among themselves. The different systems in the probe, in order to point telescopes and the antennae, need to know where the moon is,” Hofman elaborates.

“Since there is no astronaut or pilot in the satellite, all the information regarding the location, angle, speed and other information that’s relevant for those measuring systems, is being transmitted to them internally.”

Engineers from the Israel Air Force

Duli Yariv, Sital’s VP of marketing and sales, points out that projects in space are only a small part of Sital’s repertoire. While electronics are particularly unreliable in space, they are also problematic on earth, and that’s where Sital provides most of its solutions.

“One reason Sital is better than other companies is the robustness and high quality of our products, and that’s why our customers work with us,” asserts Yariv. “We’re not only recognized for our achievements in space, but also for the high quality design we’ve been producing for the past 15 years.”

Founded by Hofman in 1993, Sital’s engineers are veterans of technical units in the Israel Air Force (IAF). Both the Israel Defense Force and the IAF are among Sital’s clients.

Sital is currently working with NASA on a number of other, long-term projects, including its international space station and the James Webb Telescope (a replacement for the Hubble Telescope). “NASA keeps adding more systems to space stations, so in two years they will add systems that will include our chip,” Hofman tells ISRAEL21c.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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