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Germany freezes support for satellite project
Germans claim the joint "David" satellite was for espionage

Berlin (pte045/11.02.2003/15:30) - The EU Fourth Framework Programme for R&D granted Eur2.3 million for the commercial satellite, renamed Diamant. Sources inform "Globes" that the German government has frozen its support for the David remote sensing satellite, also known as Diamant, which is being jointly developed with Israel. The Germans are concerned the satellite will be used for espionage.

The project began in 1995 as a civilian remote sensing satellite. The Israel Space Agency signed an agreement with its German counterpart, the DAR. The satellite is designed has 5-meter resolution and a unique 12 spectral band capability. El-Op Electro-Optics Industries and OHB will jointly design the camera.

Germany and Israel conducted a feasibility study for the civilian remote sensing satellite, which was approved. A team of Israeli scientists determined the satellite's operational features. Germany's former minister of science denied reports that the satellite was intended for espionage, but the German chancellor cancelled government support for the project.

OHB continued development with El-Op and the Israeli Space Agency. The EU Fourth Framework Programme for R&D later provided a Eur2.3 million grant. Britain's Ordinance Survey also provided support, while El-Op matched the EU's grant.

Israel Space Agency chairman Yuval Neeman confirmed to "Globes" that Germany had suspended support for the project. "El-Op built a special telescope," said Neeman, "but the Germans had a problem. They claimed the satellite was for espionage and got cold feet. The project is now in suspended animation."

El-Op director of space operations Avi Blasberger said the telescope met all the parties' expectations, and the technology developed for the satellite was being used in other company projects.

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