JERUSALEM, July 9 (UPI) -- Israel plans to invest $77.5 million over five years to jump-start a space program officials say could become a $10 billion civilian space industry.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, a strong supporter of Israeli aerospace initiatives for years, said he expects the industry to develop into a major source of business, Haaretz reported Friday.
Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu several months ago instructed government officials to develop a national space program to help the 25 Israeli firms in the civilian space sector expand their market.
The international space industry is undergoing major changes, including privatization, Israeli officials noted, adding the civilian space market is worth an estimated $250 billion a year. Sources within the Defense Ministry told Haaretz Israel could capture up to 5 percent of the market.
Several officials said they hoped the space program will be included in the 2011-2012 state budget.
"If the space budget is not included in the present budget, we will lose two important years," space agency Chairman Ben Yisrael said.
The $77.5 million planned annual investment is not part of Israel's budget, Haaretz said.