The Satellites and Space Department of the Israel Air Force (IAF) is manned by academician officers – and one soldier with the rank of private, who has yet to study a single day in the university.
He is Yam Eshbal, and he only graduated from high school six months ago. The IDF Website reports that he is also the IAF's first expert on nano-satellites.
Eshbal studied satellites and space in school. "I had an amazing teacher whose dream was to build a pocket satellite with the pupils," he told the military website. "In the course of a decade, with class after class, my teacher Anna worked on the project, and in the end, I and three other students flew to Russia, to witness the launch of the satellite we built."
"The Israeli space community is not that big," he added, "and when the IAF heard about my story, they offered that I come here. The service demands much more of me than what being a student did, but it is fascinating and rewarding."
The military needs satellites for spying, and also for communications. Bad weather or mountainous terrain can obstruct communications, but a satellite in space helps keep signals flowing steadily.
The nano-satellites that Eshbal is in charge of are about 10 centimeters in length, and weigh a few kilograms each – as opposed to a regular satellite, which can weigh over half a ton. They will provide the military with new operational options at lower cost.
The Head of Satellites and Space Department, Major Alex, said that the field of nano-satellites is a new one for the IAF. "Yam's classmates, high school students from Herzliya, were the first to launch an Israeli nano-satellite. Yam has a young, open mind, coupled with theoretical and practical experience in the field. When he arrived at the Department, he met IAI engineers, some of whom have decades of experience, and was able to talk to them at eye level and get them excited as well."
The IDF and Ministry of Defense are currently working on developing a nano-satellite, said Maj. Alex, and are at the research phase.