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Middle East Space Roundup: 10 to 16 September 2023
A summary of all the space news in the Greater Middle East over the past week, powered by AzurX
The following are the major space developments in the Greater Middle East region tracked by Middle East Space Monitor over the past week:
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Work Begins on Iran-Russia Research Satellite
Top universities in Iran and Russia are collaborating on a joint project to develop a research satellite, aiming to complete it within two years. The University of Tehran and Moscow State University have signed an agreement and initiated the project's execution. A dedicated secretariat has been established at the University of Tehran to oversee the initiative, with funding support from the Plan and Budget Organization of Iran. This endeavour reflects the growing relations between Iran and Russia across various sectors, including space. In August 2022, Russia built and successfully launched the high-resolution Earth observation satellite, Khayyam, into orbit using a Soyuz rocket for Iran. Besides its cooperation with Russia, Iran intends to bolster its domestic space technology capabilities, as emphasized by Iran’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Eesa Zarepoor.
Israel’s IAI in Talks with Uzbekistan on Providing Satellite Technologies
Representatives from Uzbekistan’s space agency, Uzbekcosmos, and Israel’s Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) recently held a meeting to explore potential collaboration in space technology. During the meeting, IAI representatives presented various satellite technologies, including remote sensing satellites and telecommunications satellites, with a focus on the small communication satellite MCS, as well as Earth observation satellites like OptSat3000 and OptSat500. The discussions extended to areas such as personnel training, technology transfer, and cooperative proposals for advancing Uzbekistan's space and ground infrastructure. Both parties agreed to work together to develop proposals for these advancements and to hold seminars and roundtable discussions concerning satellite technologies. This meeting marks a significant step in fostering cooperation in the field of space technology between Uzbekistan and Israel.
Israel’s We Space Selected for ESRIC’s Start-Up Support Programme
Luxembourg’s European Space Resources Innovation Centre’s (ESRIC) Start-up Support Programme, dedicated to space resources utilisation, is entering its third edition by welcoming five new ventures for pre-incubation, one of which is a start-up from Israel. Over the next three months, these teams will undergo customised mentoring sessions to validate their technical concepts and align them with market opportunities. Following the programme, one venture will be selected and supported in establishing a business entity in Luxembourg, hosted at Technoport. Luxembourg's commitment to space sector development and fostering a new-space ecosystem is highlighted through this programme, with over 80 space companies and institutes based in the country. The selected ventures include We Space from Israel, working on autonomous flying robotic systems for lunar exploration; Open Moon from Spain, focused on digitalising instruments on the Moon and in space; Orbital Mining Corp. from the United States, seeking to provide end-to-end integrated energy solutions on the Moon; SolSys Mining from Norway, developing a lunar system for nutrient extraction and agriculture; and Moliri Space from Estonia, aiming to build solar power stations from in-situ space resources. The programme reflects the growing interest in space resources utilisation and Luxembourg's commitment to being a leader in the field.
UAE’s YahClick Partners with NigComSat to Provide Satellite Broadband Internet to Nigeria
YahClick, the data solutions subsidiary of the UAE's Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, better known as YahSat, has entered into a partnership with the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) to enhance broadband penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa. Starting in Q4 2023, the collaboration aims to provide faster and more reliable broadband internet connectivity, with speed increases to 25 Mbps for standard profiles and up to 100 Mbps for corporate users. This initiative seeks to facilitate the delivery of critical services such as education and healthcare while supporting Nigeria's digitisation efforts. The partnership aims to create an infrastructure that can support various services across Nigeria, with a steering committee formed to oversee the project's alignment with national requirements and essential service institutions.
Iran’s Chabahar National Launch Base to be Ready by March 2025
The Iranian Space Organisation has announced that the first phase of the Chabahar National Launch Base is on track to be completed by March 2025. A spokesperson highlighted the project's significance, equating it to a mega-project, and mentioned that the necessary funding has been secured, with construction currently underway. The Chabahar National Launch Base, featuring three primary phases, aims to enable the launch of satellites using solid-fuel tactical launchers into Sun-synchronous orbits (SSO). This strategic location in southeastern Iran is expected to allow international launches from the base by March 2032, with neighbouring countries invited to utilise its facilities. Additionally, the project is part of a broader effort to develop the Makran region and provide various services to its residents, such as water supply, contributing to its overall development.
Saudi Arabia Keen to Invest in India’s Thriving Space Sector
Saudi Investment Minister Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih has expressed Saudi Arabia's interest in partnering with India in the space sector. Al-Falih noted the successful landing of India's Chandrayaan-3 on the Moon and India's unique achievement of a 'soft landing' on the Moon's south pole, making it the only country to have done so. He highlighted the potential for Saudi Arabian companies to invest in India in various sectors, including space, artificial intelligence, robotics, cyber security, and automation. India is considering easing foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in the space sector to attract overseas players, and Al-Falih welcomed this opportunity for collaboration. The bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and India reached $52.8 billion in 2022-23, showcasing the growing economic ties between the two countries.
UAE’s AzurX Backs Scottish Satellite IoT Company Krucial Raise $3.7 Million
Scottish startup Krucial, which leverages satellite technology for digital solutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), has secured over $3.7 million in funding as it expands into international markets. The investment, led by the Scottish National Investment Bank, with participation from the University of Strathclyde, Scottish Enterprise, and UAE-based space and technology investor AzurX, brings Krucial's total funding to over $7.5 million. The funds will be used to accelerate growth in core markets, including energy, aquaculture, agriculture, and rail, in the UK and internationally. Krucial's digital solutions use a combination of satellite and cellular technology, IoT devices, and cloud services to provide end-to-end digital infrastructure for remote and hard-to-reach assets. Disclosure: AzurX supports the Middle East Space Roundup newsletter.
Türkiye’s Fist Astronaut to Launch No Earlier than January 2024
NASA and its international partners have approved the crew for Axiom Space's third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in January 2024. The crew for Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) includes Axiom Space's chief astronaut, Michael López-Alegría, as commander, Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei as pilot, and mission specialists Alper Gezeravci of Türkiye and ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden. This mission marks the first commercial mission for an ESA-sponsored astronaut and will send the first Turkish astronaut to space. Private astronaut missions to the ISS are part of NASA's efforts to develop a thriving low Earth orbit ecosystem and marketplace, enabling more countries and individuals to access space and conduct research.
UAE Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi Says Emirati on the Moon a Real Possibility
Sultan Al Neyadi, the UAE's first astronaut to carry out a long-duration space mission, has expressed the possibility of his country's involvement in further space exploration, including the moon, through NASA's Artemis programme. Speaking after his record-breaking six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Al Neyadi mentioned that the UAE has signed the Artemis Accords, signifying its commitment to lunar exploration. During his mission, Al Neyadi became the first person from the UAE to undertake a long-duration spaceflight and perform a spacewalk. He also noted that three more UAE citizens are in training to become astronauts, demonstrating the UAE's continued dedication to human spaceflight and exploration.
UAE’s Yahsat Looks to Enter NGSO Direct-to-Device Satellite Communications Market
Yahsat, the UAE’s premier satellite communications provider and owner of satellite telephone and maritime communications provider Thuraya, is exploring entry into the direct-to-device (D2D) satellite communications market. The company recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to the satellite industry for a Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) constellation specifically focused on direct-to-device communication. Jassem Nassar, Chief Business Development Officer of Yahsat, stated that the company is seeking capabilities for text messaging, voice calls, and limited data services, with future plans to offer broadband connectivity. While various satellite-to-cell partnerships have been announced, the adoption of such services is still in its early stages, with some companies needing significant funding to deploy their full satellite constellations.
Israel’s Gilat to Provide Satellite Network Infrastructure to Ethiopia’s Ethio Telecom
Israel’s Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. has been awarded a contract for satellite network modernisation by Ethio Telecom in Ethiopia. The project will involve the deployment of Gilat's SkyEdge II-c system along with hundreds of Capricorn and Gemini Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs). This modernisation effort aims to enhance satellite-based 4G cellular backhaul capabilities and enterprise communications, especially in remote areas of Ethiopia. Ethio Telecom's Chief Network Infrastructure Officer, Mr. Tesfaye Tadesse Woldesemayat, cited Gilat's extensive experience in satellite-based cellular backhaul as a key factor in their selection, aiming to provide reliable and efficient mobile connectivity and enterprise communication services to benefit the people of Ethiopia.
Announcement on Significant Qatari-U.S. Military Space Cooperation Imminent
In the coming months, Qatar and the United States are set to strengthen their strategic defence cooperation, particularly focusing on military space capabilities, which will bolster Qatar's status as a Major Non-Nato Ally (MNNA) with the U.S. Department of Defense, according to Tactical Report. Major General Abdulaziz Bin Falah Al-Dosari, the Qatari advisor for Communications and Space Affairs, recently held meetings with senior officials from U.S. Space Command, including Major General Michael Morrissey and Brigadier General Dennis Bythewood, where they discussed launching a joint programme. This programme entails training Qatari personnel in space technologies relevant to both military and civilian satellite applications, likely some version of the U.S. military’s Space 100 course. Preparations for this cooperation are expected to commence by the end of 2023, supported by bipartisan backing in the U.S. Congress and a commitment from President Joe Biden to expand space cooperation between the two countries, fostering joint investments in space.
UAE Company LEAP 71 Demonstrates Ability to 3D-Print Rocket Engines
Dubai-based LEAP 71 is pioneering the design of 3D-printed space rocket engines using its advanced Computational Engineering Model software. This software generates algorithms for the design and construction of spacecraft systems, enabling the rapid creation of entire rocket engines in as little as five to ten minutes. LEAP 71 recently secured a partnership with Europe's The Exploration Company (TEC) to develop propulsion system designs for its reusable space capsule, Nyx. If successful, this technology could revolutionise spacecraft system development, reducing costs and speeding up construction times. The move aligns with the UAE's goal of becoming a regional hub for spacecraft system development as part of Operation 300bn, a strategy to position the country as a global industrial hub by 2031.
Oman to Host Annual Euroconsult Middle East Space Conference Starting January 2024
Oman’s Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology (MTCIT) will host an annual Middle East Space Conference in collaboration with global space and satellite strategy consulting firm Euroconsult. This conference, scheduled for 8-10 January 2024, aims to promote space in the Middle East and position Oman as a strategic gateway for investments in space applications and technologies in the region. The event will bring together over 350 experts from the Middle East and around the world to discuss topics such as space strategies, financing, market trends, satellite communications, and Earth observation. It will also feature an exhibition to showcase space technologies and sciences, fostering networking, partnerships, and awareness of technological advancements in the sector. The conference aligns with Oman's efforts to stimulate local space activity and enhance its global prominence in the space industry.
UAE’s Bayanat Partners with HySpecIQ for Hyperspectral Imaging, Facilitated by AzurX
HySpecIQ, a U.S. hyperspectral imaging and data analytics company, has forged a partnership with Bayanat, the UAE’s premier geospatial analytics company. Hyperspectral imaging technology allows for the identification of objects from space by leveraging the unique spectral fingerprints created when objects reflect light in various wavelengths, providing detailed information about their identity, composition, and characteristics. This collaboration between HySpecIQ and Bayanat aims to develop hyperspectral data applications and systems that can combine hyperspectral data with other geospatial information to generate valuable insights. They plan to explore the establishment of a Hyperspectral Centre of Excellence in the UAE, fostering expertise in hyperspectral imagery analysis and operations. This partnership, facilitated by AzurX, a leading space advisory firm in the UAE, seeks to harness the potential of hyperspectral imaging in various sectors, including defence, oil and gas, environmental monitoring, and agriculture, aligning with the UAE's strategic vision for space capabilities and expertise development. The hyperspectral imaging systems market is on the rise, projected to reach over $47 billion by 2032, driven by growing demand in remote sensing applications, technological advancements, and government initiatives. Disclosure: AzurX supports the Middle East Space Roundup newsletter.
Egypt’s MisrSat-2 to Launch in December 2023, Cooperative African Space Projects Outlined
Sherif Sedqy, CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA), has announced that Egypt's remote sensing satellite, MisrSat-2, also known as EgyptSat-2, is prepared for launch in December 2023. The satellite was assembled and tested in Egypt through cooperation with China, which provided a $92 million grant for its construction. MisrSat-2 will play a crucial role in monitoring climate change, desertification, land degradation, and tracking changes in Egypt's vital water resources. It will enhance resource planning, land management, agricultural output, and urban planning in the country. This achievement marks Egypt as the first African country with the capacity to assemble and test satellites, positioning it as a leader in African space technology. Egypt's space ambitions also include the development of the African Development Satellite in collaboration with several African countries and a remote sensing camera for the International Space Station in partnership with Kenya and Uganda. Egypt has been making significant strides in space technology, with previous satellite launches including Tiba-1, Nilesat-301, Horus-1, and Horus-2, among others, showcasing the country's growing expertise in the field.
Iranian Hackers Target Space Sector Worldwide
Hackers linked to Iran's government, identified as the Peach Sandstorm group by Microsoft, have conducted a sophisticated espionage campaign targeting thousands of organisations in the satellite, defence, and pharmaceutical sectors. This campaign, which occurred from February to July 2023, employed a combination of publicly available and custom tools, including "password spraying" to gain unauthorised access to victims' devices. Once inside, the hackers used AzureHound and Roadtools tools to collect information, access cloud environments, and transfer data of interest to a single database. The group also exploited known vulnerabilities and used tools like AnyDesk for remote monitoring and management. While Microsoft didn't disclose the targeted countries, recent Iranian-linked attacks have focused on Israel, the U.S., Brazil, and the UAE. Microsoft noted that the capabilities observed in this campaign are concerning, and even initial access by foreign hackers can have adverse impacts on victims.
UAE Leads Arab Spectrum Management Group in Preparation for WRC-23
The UAE, represented by the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), led the 31st meeting of the Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG) held in Bahrain from 9 to 13 September 2023, as part of the preparations for the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23). Scheduled for 20 November to 15 December 2023, in the UAE, WRC-23 is a crucial international event that updates the Radio Regulations, governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits globally. TDRA's involvement in preparatory meetings across regional groups, such as Asia-Pacific, America, Africa, and the Commonwealth countries, demonstrates the UAE's commitment to fostering collaboration in addressing critical issues like emerging technologies, frequency allocation, spectrum management, and satellite communications coordination. WRC-23 is set to host 4,000 delegates from 193 countries, government authorities, telecommunications regulatory bodies, and industry representatives, emphasising the global significance of the conference in advancing efficient and harmonised utilisation of radio-frequency resources.
UAE Space Agency Contributes Vital Satellite Imagery for Morocco Earthquake Response
The Geospatial Analytics Platform project team within the UAE Space Agency's Space Data Centre, in collaboration with Bayanat, is playing a vital role in submitting analysis reports to the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters website, as part of international efforts to respond to the recent earthquake in Morocco. The UAE Space Agency, recognising the importance of international cooperation in disaster response, contributed reports that assessed earthquake damage, aided in developing effective relief and rescue plans, and provided continuous monitoring. These efforts underscore the value of space technologies in disaster management and highlight the International Charter as a critical tool for utilising space data in times of crisis. The UAE Space Agency's partnership with Bayanat aims to leverage satellite data and value-added services to address national and global challenges, aligning with the UAE government's transformational projects.
U.S.-Based Nonprofit Supplies SpaceX Starlink Terminals to Iranian Protestors
U.S. non-governmental organisation United Against Iranian Nuclear (UANI) has launched Project Constellation, an initiative to provide internet services to Iranians amidst the Iranian government's frequent internet shutdowns and censorship efforts. This initiative, facilitated by General License D-2, which grants an exemption to U.S. sanctions for "discrete internet services," is powered by Starlink, Elon Musk's SpaceX-operated satellite internet service. Starlink receivers have been discreetly smuggled into Iran since September 2022 to ensure connectivity during potential internet blackouts. Project Constellation also includes a fundraising platform that allows supporters to donate funds to send Starlink satellite internet terminals to Iranians, aiming to maintain their online access despite government restrictions, which often disrupt work and essential services.
Qatar’s Es’hailSat Introduces its Advanced Payout Services
Es'hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company, has introduced advanced Playout Services tailored for television broadcasters in collaboration with leading technology experts. These services represent a significant development in Qatar's media landscape, aligning with Es'hailSat's commitment to innovation and content quality enhancement for households across Qatar and the Middle East and North African region. The Playout Services encompass scheduling, content preparation, graphics integration, and seamless transmission, offering broadcasters comprehensive solutions to optimise operations and deliver an uninterrupted and engaging viewer experience. This initiative leverages Es'hailSat's extensive satellite infrastructure, including the Es'hail-1 and Es'hail-2 communications satellites co-located at 25.5/26 degrees East, and the 50,000-square meters teleport facility outside Doha, enabling a range of services such as hosting, managed very small aperture terminals (VSAT), and broadcast distribution.
Other News in Brief
Among the other regional space and satellite developments over the past week are:
Russian and Iranian scholars co-author a peer-reviewed article published in Acta Astronautica titled “The United Arab Emirates approach towards international space law: Divergence or convergence?”
Saudi Arabia’s Communications, Space, and Technology Commission (CST) announces that it will host its Space Challenge Camp over two weeks in October 2023;
Be sure to catch up with space activities in the region in the next edition of Middle East Space Monitor’s space roundup!
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