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Middle East Space Roundup: 13 to 19 August 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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Nora Al Matrooshi, UAE’s First Female Astronaut, Nears Training Completion
Nora Al Matrooshi, the UAE's first woman astronaut, is undergoing rigorous training for future spacewalks by practicing in one of the world's largest indoor pools at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. The training involves using the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, a 145kg suit astronauts wear during spacewalks, and takes place in a pool containing 2.3 million liters of water to simulate weightlessness. Al Matrooshi and her colleague Mohammed Al Mulla are the newest members of the UAE's astronaut corps, following in the footsteps of Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi. While they have not been assigned a mission yet, they are part of a NASA training programme that will make them eligible for NASA-led missions after their graduation early next year. The UAE is actively preparing for future space endeavours, including potential missions to space stations and even the Moon.
Egypt’s Nilesat Posts Healthy Financial Results for H1 2023
Nilesat, Egypt’s largest commercial satellite company, has announced a 3.2 percent year-on-year increase in net profits after tax for the first half of 2023, reporting a net profit of $19.304 million compared to $18.706 million in the same period last year, as stated in their financial income statement submitted to the Egyptian Exchange. During the six-month period ending on 30 June 2023, Nilesat's operating revenue also experienced a 2.09 percent year-on-year growth, reaching $51.193 million, compared to last year's $50.147 million. Nilesat, headquartered in Cairo, offers satellite radio, television broadcasting services, and broadband internet. The company's financial report indicates a modest improvement in trading, with its Q1 net profit recorded at $7.479 million. Nilesat operates from the 7 degrees West orbital slot, which it shares with Eutelsat, providing over 1000 channels to viewers in the Middle East.
Djibouti’s First Satellite is Readied for October 2023 Launch
Djibouti's nanosatellite project, Djibouti-1A, has reached a significant milestone as it has been delivered to Exolaunch for integration into the Exopod NOVA deployer, set to be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket in October 2023. Developed at the Centre Spatial Universitaire de Montpellier (CSUM) through a capacity development initiative, this satellite aims to provide Djibouti with real-time data from climatological and seismic stations, offering valuable insights into temperature, rainfall, river depth, and hydrometry across the country. This data will support policy-makers in improving agriculture and monitoring environmental changes. Additionally, Djibouti-1B is expected to follow suit, with delivery planned for November 2023 and launch scheduled for February 2024, further enhancing the country's space capabilities.
Iran’s Khayyam Earth Observation Satellite Benefiting Country According to Iranian Media
Iran's domestically developed Earth observation satellite, Khayyam, launched into orbit in 2022, has been providing significant benefits to the country according to Iranian news outlet Tasnim News Agency. Launched via a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Khayyam orbits 500 kilometres above the Earth and provides valuable data and images used in various sectors including agriculture, natural resources, environment, water resources, mines, and border control. Controlled by Iranian experts stationed at national space centres, the satellite has been transmitting signals since its launch. With its one-metre spatial resolution, Khayyam has covered over 30 percent of Iran's total area and is aiding in updating maps after decades. The satellite also marks a significant aerospace cooperation between Iran and Russia, showcasing Iran's progress despite sanctions.
UAE Mulls Additional Reconnaissance Satellites from France or United States
The UAE Armed Forces are seeking to enhance military reconnaissance cooperation with France, which was discussed during UAE President Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan's visit to France in July 2022. As part of this effort, the UAE is contemplating the procurement of two additional Falcon Eye satellites from Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space, equipped with Thales Alenia Space's High-Resolution Imager (HiRI). If finalised, the contract for these follow-on satellites would be valued at over €800 million. However, the UAE is also considering a proposal from Airbus for a possible spy satellite based on the Pleiades Neo and has an attractive bid from Lockheed Martin for optical reconnaissance satellites. This decision poses a significant choice for the UAE between the French and U.S. offers. The original Falcon Eye contract, signed in 2013 between the UAE and France, involved Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor and Thales Alenia Space as payload supplier, with the satellites based on the AstroBus platform equipped with HiRI imaging system. The first Falcon Eye was lost in a launch failure, while the second was successfully launched in 2020.
Iranian Space Agency Announces Ambitious Launch Cadence Over Next Ten Years
The Iranian Space Agency has announced plans aligned with the approval of the Seventh Development Programme Commission to execute 30 launches during the programme's duration. The Integration Commission of the seventh programme has endorsed the necessity of conducting 30 research and operational launches within the specified period. The spokesperson for the agency, Hossein Dalirian, expressed confidence in achieving this goal given Iran's capacities in satellite and launch vehicle design and construction. The organisation aims to revitalise and advance the country's space sector under the support of President Ebrahim Raisi. With seven successful launches already accomplished during the current administration's tenure, they aspire to achieve more than 10 launches within about two-years in collaboration with the General Staff of the Armed Forces. This endeavour aligns with the commission's vision for the seventh development programme spanning five years, and Dalirian emphasised that with advancements in space technology, achieving 30 launches within this timeframe is an achievable objective, highlighting the significance of support from the administration and parliament for space initiatives.
Iran Unveils Pars-2 and Pars-3 Earth Observation Satellites
Hossein Salariyeh, the Head of Iran's Space Agency, has announced the commencement of the construction phase for Iran's advanced remote sensing satellites Pars-2 and Pars-3. This development signifies a major stride towards unveiling the satellites in the near future. Salariyeh stated that the agency has initiated the design and construction of Pars-2, that will be an Earth observation satellite with a four-metre resolution, while the Pars-3 represents Iran's most modern and highly accurate Earth observation satellite with a resolution of around two-metres.
Official Says Iran Now Reaping Economic Benefits of Space Programme
Ali Bahadori Jahromi, the spokesman for the Iranian administration, emphasised the significant progress that Iran has achieved in its space industry across various domains. Speaking at the unveiling of the space and astronomy news section of the Tasnim News Agency, Jahromi highlighted that Iran's space industry has reached a point where it is generating economic benefits. He noted that prominent research centers worldwide now recognize Iran as an advanced country in the field. Jahromi credited much of these advancements to the guidance of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, and highlighted that Iran's space industry emerged after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, growing rapidly under the leader's guidance. He emphasised that the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi considers the space industry a significant component of national power, focusing on establishing and completing the country's space base. He also emphasized Iran's position as a major player in the world's space industry and its potential role in shaping the industry's legal frameworks.
Iran’s Soroush II Launch Vehicle to Have Launch Mass of Over 500 Tons
Iran's forthcoming satellite launch vehicle, Soroush II, is set to have a launch mass exceeding 500 tons, announced Ahmad Hosseini Mounes, the spokesman for the Iranian defence ministry’s Space Division. Highlighting Iran's progress in space technology, Mounes stated that since launching the Omid satellite with the Safir satellite launch vehicle in 2009, the country became the first in the Muslim world to possess a complete space technology cycle. He emphasised Iran's ambition to move beyond sending smaller satellites and elaborated on the development roadmap for various satellite launch vehicles, including Simorgh and Zoljanah. The goal is to increase payload capacity from 100kg to 15 tons, representing a significant technological endeavour.
Iran’s Tasnim News Agency Launches Dedicated Space News Section
The Tasnim News Agency of Iran introduced a new section dedicated to space sciences and astronomy news, covering reports in five languages. The launch event was attended by prominent figures including Ali Bahadori Jahromi, the spokesman for the Iranian Administration, Hassan Salariyeh, Head of Iran Space Agency (ISA), Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of Iran's Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences, Ahmad Hosseini Mounes, Spokesperson for the defence ministry’s Space Division, as well as various Iranian space and astronomy experts. The significance of space and astronomy sciences in driving technological advancement and overall development was emphasised, with space technologies found to have diverse applications, from environmental protection and agriculture to navigation, media, disaster management, and more. The extensive strategic nature of the modern space industry, marked by significant investment from developed countries, was highlighted, signifying its crucial role in various sectors. An English-language version is also made available by Tasnim News Agency here.
UAE Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi Starts Groundbreaking Oral Health Study in Space
The UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has initiated a groundbreaking oral health study, collaborating with Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi introduced the project from the ISS, aiming to redefine oral health understanding in space. Titled "Oral tissues and neural crest-derived stem cells as a model to study oral health in microgravity environment", the study seeks to comprehend the development, function, and diseases of oral and dental tissues in microgravity. Dr. Mohamed Jamal of MBRU leads the project, intending to simulate the ISS environment on Earth for prolonged experiments. The study is supported by the UAE's National Space Programme and managed by MBRSC. It holds the potential to significantly advance oral health understanding in microgravity, aiding in the development of innovative tissue models and shaping the future of space medicine.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Posts Strong Half-Year Financial Results
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel’s leading aerospace and defence company and largest satellite manufacturer in the region, has released its financial statements for the first half and second quarter of 2023. In H1 2023, sales reached approximately $2,540 million, an 8% increase from H1 2022, driven mainly by the Systems Missiles & Space Group and the Military Aircraft Group. Q2 2023 saw sales of about $1,261 million, a 9% increase compared to Q2 2022, attributed to increased sales in the Systems Missiles & Space Group, the Military Aircraft Group, and the ELTA Group. Sales for export accounted for about 73% of total sales in H1 2023 and Q2 2023. Gross profit and net income showed positive growth in both periods. The company's order backlog as of June 30, 2023, was approximately $16.4 billion, securing about 3.4 years of operation based on current sales volumes. The financial success was highlighted by Amir Peretz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of IAI, as an achievement that reflects the company's capabilities and financial stability.
Oman Receives Earth Observation Data Catalogue from Indian Space Research Organisation
Oman’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology in cooperation with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has inaugurated the India-Omani Earth Observation Platform. The platform, developed and gifted by the Indian space agency to Oman, contains images and data from Indian Earth observation satellites, aimed at benefiting various development sectors like agriculture, water and fisheries, transportation, disaster management, urban development, and renewable energy. During the inauguration, Engineer Saeed bin Hamoud Al Maawali, Oman’s Minister of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, visited the ISRO headquarters, discussing cooperation and partnership opportunities with officials and specialists. The visit also included witnessing the separation stage of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft for landing on the Moon's surface and a meeting with Indian companies specialised in space and ICT sectors, exploring investment opportunities in Oman's market.
UAE Astronaut to Return to Earth No Later than 1 September 2023
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, along with his Crew-6 colleagues, is set to return to Earth no earlier than 1 September 2023, according to the U.S. space agency NASA. The return will be facilitated by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft named Endeavour, which will undock from the International Space Station (ISS) and splashdown off the coast of Florida. The Crew-6 members, including Al Neyadi, NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, have been conducting a variety of experiments and technology demonstrations during their mission aboard the ISS. The return of Crew-6 depends on the arrival of the next crew rotation mission, Crew-7, which is expected to arrive no earlier than 25 August 2023. After returning to Earth, Al Neyadi will need about two weeks of training to readjust to life on Earth after spending six months in microgravity, during which he has conducted numerous experiments and maintenance tasks aboard the ISS.
Saudi Arabia’s CST Issues Space Radiocommunication Public Consultation
Saudi Arabia’s Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) has published a public consultation on the space radiocommunication services outlook and is seeking comments by 10 September 2023. The aim is to ensure optimal utilisation of spectrum and meet the requirements of innovative space technologies, CST said. The outlook includes an analysis of the current situation in space radio services in the country, prominent global trends, challenges faced by spectrum regulators, and future opportunities and technologies.
Egypt’s President Reappoints Sherif Sedky as Head of Egyptian Space Agency
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt has issued a decree to reappoint Dr. Sherif Sedky as the Chief Operating Officer of the Egyptian Space Agency, starting from 19 August 2023, marking the continuation of Dr. Sedky's tenure. Dr. Sedky's initial appointment began on 19 August 2022, following the tenure of Dr. Mohamed Al-Qousi. With more than 30 years of experience in international institutions across the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, he has worked at prestigious institutions such as the University of California Berkeley, Stanford University, and the Catholic University of Leuven. Dr. Sedky is known for his contributions, including 19 patents in miniaturized sensors and inertial systems. His extensive career has also included leadership roles, especially over the last 11 years, where he has managed multinational faculty, students, and staff. In the past year as CEO of EgSA (Egyptian Space Agency), Dr. Sedky has overseen notable achievements, including the successful launch of Horus-1 and -2 satellites, beneficial international agreements, and the forthcoming launch of MisrSat-2.
Iran’s Tolou-3 Earth Observation Satellite to be Launched by Mach 2024
Iran is set to launch its indigenous Earth observation satellite, Tolou-3, by the end of the Islamic year, as announced by Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari, the head of the Electronic Industries Organisation. The satellite, produced by Iran Electronics Industries and commissioned by the Iranian Space Agency (ISA), was unveiled in February 2023. With a weight of 150 kilograms, Tolou-3 is recognized as Iran's heaviest domestically manufactured satellite. It boasts a spatial resolution of five metres for black and white images and a 10-metre resolution in colour mode. The satellite, relying on equipment from Iranian knowledge-based companies, is planned to orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometres above Earth. This launch follows Iran's previous successes in satellite technology, including Omid, Rasad, Navid, and military satellites.
Regional Space Diplomacy
Among the other regional space diplomacy engagements and agreements over the past week are:
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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