Middle East Space Roundup: 11 to 17 June 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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UAE’s Space Economy Committee Reviews National Space Fund Projects
During its second meeting, the UAE Space Economy Committee, which is part of the Space Economic Zones Programme initiated by the UAE Space Agency, reviewed the projects of the National Space Fund and expressed appreciation for the nationwide efforts to support the development of the UAE's space and industrial sectors. The committee examined key projects of the National Space Fund, focusing on building national capabilities, diversifying the economy, developing infrastructure, attracting startups and global space companies, and facilitating the transfer of know-how and skills within the space sector. The committee also discussed updates on the 'Sirb' programme, which aims to develop synthetic aperture radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites. The meeting addressed challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the sector and emphasised the importance of enabling the space sector's rapid growth, promoting innovation and development, and supporting the UAE's aspirations for its national space sector. Chaired by Ibrahim Hamza Al Qasim, Deputy Director General of the UAE Space Agency, the meeting included members from various government entities involved in space-related affairs, highlighting a collaborative approach in the development of the UAE's space ecosystem.
France’s Thales Alenia Space Seeks Civil and Military Space Deals With Saudi Arabia
According to Tactical Report, Etienne Pahin, Middle East Sales Director at Thales Alenia Space, recently visited Saudi Arabia and held meetings with several Saudi officials involved in space projects, space security, and space technology development. The discussions focused on potential cooperation in advanced space communications, space exploration, and leveraging Saudi investments for outer space projects. While it is unclear whether any agreements were signed during the meetings, there were talks about collaborating with the Saudi Space Commission (SSC) for space research development and the localisation of satellite technologies. The next phase is expected to see an expansion of Saudi-French cooperation in both civil and military space sectors. There is also a possibility of cooperation between Thales Alenia and Saudi Arabia in a satellite project for the Saudi Ministry of Defence, specifically related to space intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and command and control.
Bahrain’s Al Munther Earth Observation Satellite Will Feature Innovative AI Capability
Bahraini media outlets report that the first indigenously built satellite in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Al Munther Earth observation satellite, is now 40 percent complete and will feature an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) capability that will automate the processing and analysis of satellite imagery taken by the satellite. This AI capability for Al Munther will be the first of its kind in the Middle East and will provide significant savings in time, labour, and resources and will aid swift decision-making based on automated analysis.
RUNNER-1 Earth Observation Satellite Successfully Launched, Co-Developed by Israel’s ImageSat International
ImageSat International Ltd., Israel's leading commercial Earth observation satellite company, has successfully launched the RUNNER-1 satellite as part of the Transporter-8 rideshare mission by SpaceX. Developed in collaboration with aerospace and defence manufacturer Terran Orbital, RUNNER-1 is a versatile Earth observation satellite with high-resolution imaging capabilities and colour video. The satellite, part of ISI's constellation, will provide services to the Chilean Government as a key component of the country's national space programme. RUNNER-1, based on Terran Orbital's avionics platform and ISI's electro-optical mission system, offers competitive pricing and a rapid response capability for a wide range of applications, including infrastructure monitoring, disaster response, security issues, and climate change analysis. This launch follows the successful deployment of the EROS-C3 satellite, and two more RUNNER satellites are planned for future delivery to Chile.
UAE’s MBRSC To Conduct Human Spaceflight Missions Every Three to Five Years
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has announced that the success of the 'Zayed Ambition 2' mission has laid the foundation for the UAE's plan to conduct regular human spaceflight missions every three to five years, writes Nandini Sircar in the Khaleej Times. The UAE aims to become a leading force in the global space sector and position itself as a frontrunner in the expanding space economy, projected to reach a value of $1 trillion by 2040. The recent launch of Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi into space marked a historic milestone and solidified the UAE's position among the nations actively involved in space exploration. The MBRSC has played a crucial role in advancing the UAE's space programme through its comprehensive initiatives, collaborations, and pioneering missions, such as the Emirates Mars Mission and the UAE Astronaut Programme. The success of these projects has not only transformed the UAE's global standing in space but also contributed to the development of new technologies and innovations applicable to various industries. The MBRSC's efforts have fostered local partnerships, created job opportunities, and driven economic growth, positioning the UAE as a top-ranked global player in the space industry.
France’s Airbus Hopeful Of Earth Observation Satellite Sale To Egypt Despite Cairo’s Fiscal Struggles
The upcoming Paris Air Show will serve as a significant platform for advancing the Egypt-France "strategic partnership." General Mahmoud Fouad Abdel-Gawad, the Egyptian Air Force commander, is expected to attend the event and potentially finalise a contract worth several hundred million euros with Airbus Defence and Space for a high-resolution Earth observation satellite, according to a report in Africa Intelligence. While negotiations have been ongoing since 2015, the appointment of Abdel-Gawad, who previously served as the defence attaché in Paris, has raised hopes for a successful outcome. However, financing the deal poses a challenge for Egypt, as the country is on the brink of defaulting on its debt and faces pressure from Gulf creditors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A loan guaranteed by France, similar to the arrangement for the sale of Rafale fighter jets in 2021, may be necessary, but obtaining approval from the French economy ministry could be complex given Egypt's financial constraints.
Saudi Space Commission Officially Becomes Saudi Space Agency
The Saudi Space Commission has been officially transformed into the Saudi Space Agency (SSA) after receiving Cabinet approval. The decision reflects Saudi Arabia's commitment to creating a sustainable and innovative environment for the space sector. The SSA's objectives align with the country's aspirations for economic diversification, research and development, and increased participation in the global space industry. The agency aims to enhance the Kingdom's position as a leading regional and international centre for space science and technology. The transformation follows the historic mission of Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni to the International Space Station, which marked the Kingdom's first Arab female astronaut going to space. The decision is expected to stimulate research, innovation, and the development of other sectors, such as industry and technology, in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.
Türkiye’s Hello Space Successfully Launches World’s Smallest Satellite For IoT Data Services
Hello Space, Türkiye's first commercial mobile satellite initiative, has successfully launched its first test pocket satellite named 'Istanbul' as part of SpaceX's Transporter-8 2023 mission. Istanbul, produced in the pocket qube standard, is the first Turkish satellite that can fit in the palm of a hand. It marks the beginning of Hello Space's plan to establish a pocket satellite constellation network in space, providing uninterrupted Internet of Things (IoT) data service. The software and hardware production of Istanbul was completed in just one year, a significantly shorter timeframe compared to traditional satellite production. Hello Space aims to become a global enterprise offering end-to-end narrowband data services in sectors such as logistics, agriculture, and production, even in remote areas with low human density and the oceans. After Istanbul, Hello Space plans to launch four more test satellites as part of its constellation network.
UAE Space Agency Invites Private Companies To Build 50% Of MBR Explorer Spacecraft
The UAE Space Agency has launched the 'Space Means Business' campaign to search for private companies interested in participating in the development of the MBR Explorer spacecraft, which will embark on a mission to the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. The spacecraft will undertake a five-billion-kilometer journey in 2028, performing fly-bys of six asteroids and landing on the seventh. The agency aims to involve the private sector in building 50% of the spacecraft, aligning with their commitment to a private sector-first approach. The initiative aims to contribute to the national economy, promote economic opportunities, foster international partnerships, and increase investment in the UAE space sector. The mission holds scientific significance, as it will explore water-rich asteroids and provide insights into the formation of Earth and other planets. Additionally, the mission may lay the groundwork for future asteroid resource extraction. The MBR Explorer's journey will span 13 years, with close fly-bys and encounters with Venus, Earth, and Mars, utilising gravitational forces to reach the Asteroid Belt.
Lockheed Martin Names Former Senior Saudi Defence Ministry Space Official As Head of Space Business Development in Riyadh
Lockheed Martin has named retired Brigadier Abdullah Alajmi as the new Space Business Development Director for Saudi Arabia, based in Riyadh. In his role, Alajmi will support the Kingdom's space efforts and expand Lockheed Martin's presence in the region. Aligned with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 goals, Alajmi will focus on strengthening partnerships with government and commercial entities to enhance national capabilities and promote the development of space technologies. He will also oversee scientific experiments, international research collaborations, and future space missions. Joseph Rank, Lockheed Martin's Chief Executive for Saudi Arabia and Africa, expressed confidence in Alajmi's expertise and highlighted his potential to contribute to the Kingdom's strategic initiatives in the space industry. Alajmi, with a background in the Royal Saudi Air Force and extensive experience in remote sensing and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) expressed his honour to join Lockheed Martin and work towards positioning Saudi Arabia as a leader in space exploration and innovation.
UAE And The Philippines Sign Space Cooperation MoU
The Philippines is looking to strengthen cooperation with the UAE in emerging areas such as innovation and technology as both countries approach the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The Philippines has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Space Cooperation with the UAE, highlighting the potential for collaboration in space exploration, particularly in light of the UAE's achievements in the field. Additionally, discussions are underway for an MoU on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, including in artificial intelligence. The Philippines sees great potential for collaboration in sustainable development initiatives, particularly in renewable energy and climate change cooperation, as the UAE hosts COP 28. Trade and investment cooperation are also a priority, with plans for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to boost economic activities and diversify industries. Bilateral trade between the UAE and the Philippines increased by nearly 50% in 2022, reaching $1.52 billion. The relationship between the two countries is further strengthened by the large Filipino community residing and working in the UAE, with mechanisms in place to protect the welfare of both Filipino and Emirati nationals.
Oman And India Discuss Space Cooperation
Eng. Said Hamoud Al Ma'awali, Minister of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology of Oman, held a meeting with S. Somanath, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and his delegation. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss cooperation in the space sector, as well as the communications and information technology sector, between Oman and India. The two sides exchanged views on areas of mutual interest that would benefit both countries. The meeting was attended by Dr. Ali Amer Al Shidhani, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology for Communications and Information Technology, along with other officials from the ministry.
Türkiye Makes Progress In Indigenously Building Türksat 6A Communications Satellite
Türkiye continues its efforts to develop the indigenous successor to the Türksat 5B, a high-throughput communications satellite that was launched in December 2021. The Türksat 5B, built by Airbus with the assistance of Türkiye's domestic industry, marked a significant expansion of the country's communications access capacity. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the commissioning ceremony in Ankara in June 2022. Leveraging the experience gained from the development of the Türksat 5B, Türkiye is now working on the design and construction of the Türksat 6A, its homegrown satellite. Aselsan, a leading defence industry and aerospace company in Türkiye, has manufactured two pieces of communications equipment for the Türksat 6A. The satellite is part of Türkiye's national technology initiative, and tests are underway to develop its subsystems, Earth station, and software using domestic resources. With the launch of the Türksat 6A scheduled for next year, Türkiye will join the ranks of 10 countries capable of producing their own communications satellites.
UAE’s Nora Al Matrooshi And Mohammed Al Mulla Set To Graduate NASA’s Astronaut Training Programme In early 2024
Nora Al Matrooshi, the first female Emirati trainee astronaut, is expected to graduate from the NASA astronaut programme early next year, making her eligible to participate in U.S.-led space missions. Alongside her colleague Mohammed Al Mulla, she has been undergoing training at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston since January 2021. They are the UAE's latest trainee astronauts, following in the footsteps of Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi. Upon completion of the rigorous training exercises, Al Matrooshi and Al Mulla will graduate as flight-eligible astronauts in early 2024. Their training has included survival courses, spacewalk training, and familiarization with space station systems. While specific space missions for the astronauts have not been announced, Emirati astronauts may have future opportunities on private space stations and NASA's Artemis programme for lunar missions.
Egypt And India Look To Strengthen Space Cooperation
India and Egypt are poised to strengthen cooperation in defence, security, and space during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Egypt. The talks between the two countries are expected to focus on sectors including defence, space, and maritime cooperation. Potential areas of collaboration in defence include joint military exercises, technology transfer, and defence equipment procurement, as well as sharing intelligence and expertise in counterterrorism efforts. In the space domain, India and Egypt can explore partnerships in satellite launches, data sharing, and joint space missions, particularly in areas such as remote sensing, climate monitoring, and telecommunications. Both countries can also cooperate in cybersecurity, capacity building, and training programs to enhance their capabilities in countering cyber threats. Egypt has been actively developing its space programme, with the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA) coordinating and overseeing the country's space activities. Egypt has launched satellites such as EgyptSat-1 and EgyptSat-A for remote sensing and Earth observation, and has established the Egyptian Space City as a hub for space research and technology development. Collaborative efforts between India and Egypt in these areas would contribute to stability, security, and technological advancements for both nations.
Israel’s NovelSat Receives Funding For Autonomous Vehicle Collaboration With Guident Corp. And Space Florida
Guident Corp., a prominent autonomous vehicle teleoperation company based in Boca Raton, Florida, has received funding for an innovative project in collaboration with its Israeli partner, NovelSat, under the Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership programme. The grant will support the development of a Remote Monitor and Control Centre (RMCC) that utilises satellite communications for the monitoring, management, and backup control of terrestrial autonomous vehicles. This approach aims to enhance vehicle safety by providing redundant and continuous monitoring, as well as offering mobile network connectivity in areas with limited or no terrestrial mobile wireless network coverage. The joint project, scheduled to begin in July 2023, brings together the expertise and resources of Guident Corp., NovelSat, and Space Florida. The funding will drive the development of pioneering safety solutions for ground-based autonomous vehicles using satellite communications, contributing to the future of autonomous mobility.
Qatar’s Environment Ministry To Use SAR Satellites To Monitor Oil Pollution In Arabian Gulf
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change's Environmental Operations Department in Qatar has introduced an early warning system for monitoring oil pollution in the country's marine environment using satellite technology. Developed in collaboration with Sky Perfect JSat Corp., Kongsberg Satellite Services, and Itochu Corporation, the system utilises synthetic aperture radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites to accurately detect oil spills as small as 40 litres, unaffected by weather conditions such as clouds or sunlight. The system captures radar waves reflected from the surface of the oil slick and transmits images and reports to the ministry, enabling rapid intervention and response to address the pollution's effects. Complying with international conventions, the system serves as an early warning mechanism to identify and take necessary administrative and legal actions against parties responsible for pollution, contributing to the preservation of the marine environment in Qatar.
Saudi Astronauts Return To Saudi Arabia After Historic Space Mission
Four Saudi astronauts have returned to Riyadh after a successful mission, with two of them making history as the first from Saudi Arabia to spend time on the International Space Station (ISS). Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni returned to Earth after an eight-day trip to the ISS, during which they conducted 14 research experiments on microgravity, including kite experiments involving 12,000 school students from across the Kingdom. Ali Alghamdi and Mariam Fardous served as the backup astronauts for the mission. The astronauts were welcomed at King Khaled International Airport by senior officials, including the chairman of the Saudi Space Agency and the Chief of General Staff. The Saudi Space Agency expressed pride in the achievements of the mission and highlighted the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The mission is seen as a significant step towards the Kingdom's leadership in space exploration and scientific advancement.
In Politics Today, Felipe Llorente writes that the relationship between Argentina and Türkiye has a historical foundation, stemming from the migration of Ottoman subjects to Argentina in the early 20th century. Over time, political and economic cooperation between the two countries has grown, resulting in various agreements and a significant increase in trade. The recent satellite communications cooperation project between Argentina's INVAP and Türkiye's Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) showcases their joint efforts in the field of technology and innovation. Despite challenges in the bilateral relationship, the shared objectives of the companies and their commitment to technological development have paved the way for this collaboration. Both countries have invested in industrial and scientific-technological capacities and facilities, with Argentina standing out in Latin America for its developed capabilities in sectors such as nuclear, satellite, and aerospace technology. The joint venture aims to construct high-throughput communication satellites with advanced features, demonstrating Argentina and Türkiye's commitment to autonomy and technological advancement in an ever-changing global landscape.
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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