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Middle East Space Roundup: 16 to 22 July 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 Hope Probe Unveils New Data About Atmospheric Conditions on Mars
The UAE’s Emirates Mars Mission's 'Hope Probe' has recently disclosed its eighth set of data, marking a pioneering scientific achievement in comprehensively monitoring Mars' atmospheric conditions on a daily basis. This latest dataset covers Level 1 and Level 2 data from 1 December 2022 to 28 February 2023, and Level 3 data from 1 September 2022 to 30 November 2022. It includes high cadence observations of clouds and dust on specific days, providing 2.9 Terabytes of atmospheric data from the Red Planet. The uniqueness of this endeavour lies in the probe's capacity to offer diurnal coverage across the entire planet, something no other mission has accomplished over such an extended period. The data allows scientists to delve into nuances like inter-annual differences and morning-to-evening variability, enhancing their understanding of seasonal shifts and annual variations on Mars. The data was collected by the Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (EMIRS), Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS), and the Emirates Exploration Imager (EXI), and also includes derived information about the distribution of the extended cloud of hydrogen and oxygen atoms surrounding Mars and escaping to space. The Hope Probe has also achieved groundbreaking milestones, including capturing unparalleled observations of Deimos, Mars' smaller moon, during close flybys. Moreover, the probe's extended mission allows it to observe the recession of the North Polar ice and frost, shedding light on the changes in the polar region during the northern hemisphere winter on Mars.
UAE and Japan Strengthen Space Cooperation During State Visit to Abu Dhabi by Prime Minister Kishida
During his first visit to the United Arab Emirates since becoming Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida expressed his great pleasure in the long-standing strategic partnership between Japan and the UAE, which celebrated its 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations last year. Prime Minister Kishida highlighted the history of collaboration between the two countries, including in space. Yamakawa Hiroshi, the President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), lauded the immensely productive and rewarding space partnership that exists between the UAE and Japan. Acknowledging the remarkable progress made by the UAE, Mr. Hiroshi expressed his confidence in the continued enhancement of space cooperation. Highlighting past achievements, he reminisced about the collaboration that led to the successful launch of the UAE's first entirely Emirati-made Earth observation satellite, KhalifaSat, in 2018, followed by the momentous deployment of the Emirates Mars Mission's Hope Probe in 2020, both facilitated by Japan's H-IIA launch vehicle. Mr. Hiroshi went on to share details of future cooperation, stating that this year, a UAE-Japan science experiment will be conducted jointly aboard Japan's Kibo Experimental Module on the International Space Station. The experiment aims to advance research in medicine, holding potential for creating groundbreaking medical solutions. Moreover, both countries are actively engaged in inspiring the next generation by promoting space education through the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) framework, led by JAXA. Pledging an unwavering commitment, Mr. Hiroshi expressed his firm determination to further strengthen the space partnership with the UAE, working collaboratively to shape a better future for all of humanity.
Djibouti’s First Two Satellites Ready for Launch in Late 2023
Mr. Aboubakar Hassan, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research in Djibouti, has announced the Djibouti-1A and Djibouti-1B satellites' delivery and launch schedule. The Djibouti-1A satellite is set to be delivered to the launch broker, Exolaunch, in Germany, and will be integrated into the Exopod NOVA deployer for launch atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle, with a projected launch date in October 2023. The satellite has successfully completed vibration tests at the joint CSUM/Latecoere facility in France, meeting all proposed launch parameters. Meanwhile, the Djibouti-1B satellite is scheduled for delivery in November 2023 and will take off in February 2024. Both satellites will play a crucial role in transmitting data generated by the meteorological stations of the Djibouti Center for Study and Research (CERD) to the mission control centre located in Djibouti. These satellites will provide essential tools for monitoring changes in water resources by offering country-wide, real-time data from climatological and seismic stations. This data will be instrumental in enhancing understanding and management of water resources and related environmental factors in the region.
Iraq in Advanced Talks With SpaceX on Provision of Satellite Internet Services
Iraq's Minister of Telecommunications, Hiyam al-Yasiri, has engaged in talks with representatives from SpaceX regarding the implementation of space-based internet services in Iraq. This marks the second meeting between the minister and SpaceX representatives in Baghdad. During the discussions, the technical and security aspects of the project were addressed, along with the approach for delivering internet services to citizens, aligning with the Ministry's goal of enhancing service standards. Minister Al-Yasiri emphasized the ministry's strong interest in providing the service at competitive rates compared to SpaceX's offerings in other countries. Additionally, the ministry outlined its vision for the security measures and legal procedures that need to be followed before entering into contracts with potential service providers. The development of space-based internet services in Iraq could significantly improve connectivity and access to information for the nation's citizens.
UAE’s MBRSC and Japan’s IDDK Sign MoU for Biological Sciences Space Cooperation
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and Japan's IDDK, a leading biotechnology firm, have entered into a strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to advance international collaboration and innovation in space science. The partnership's primary objective is to introduce IDDK's advanced microscopic observation technology and other services to the UAE's scientific community and beyond. The MoU was signed by Salem Humaid AlMarri, Director General of MBRSC, and Soichiro Ueno, CEO of IDDK at the UAE-Japan Business Forum. The MoU outlines efforts to establish a commercial market for IDDK's services in the UAE, supporting scientists in transforming research ideas and life science experiments into space missions, developing experimental modules for space experiments, and securing in-space manufacturing platforms with safe re-entry capabilities. This venture is expected to offer new opportunities for UAE scientists and researchers to engage in space science while solidifying the country's standing as a hub of space exploration and technology.
Qatar Appears to be Interested in Acquiring a Military Communications Satellite
Qatar’s Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Khaled Al-Attiyah, is exploring various options to acquire a military-grade satellite and has suggested potential cooperation with U.S. and British defence companies, according to Tactical Report. In the 9-15 July 2023 edition of the Middle East Space Roundup it was reported that Qatar is interested in procuring a “military satellite” although the reports at the time did not provide details on what type. It has since transpired that Al-Attiyah has recommended expanding previous space collaboration with Airbus Defence and Space, emphasising the positive impact of Airbus' ground infrastructure on Qatar Armed Forces' command and control capabilities. He has apparently expressed particular interest in procuring a payload based on the Syracuse military communications satellite, jointly built by Airbus and Thales Alenia Space, along with built-in anti-jamming features. Sources reveal that the head of Space Systems at Airbus, Jean-Marc Nasr, has been contacted by Barzan Holdings' CEO and Managing Director, Nasser Hassan Al-Naimi, to initiate discussions about the procurement. Any potential agreement might also involve Airbus providing services and terminals for military ultra-high frequency SATCOM used by the Qatar Armed Forces.
Oman’s Global Space and Technology Company Opens Zone 88 to Attract Space Investment and Development
Oman’s Global Space and Technology Company has unveiled Zone 88, an area located in the special economic zone at Duqm, Oman, with the aim of attracting global investments in the space industry. Zone 88 comprises five international projects, including a space habitat centre, commercial space launching area, unmanned vehicles technology centre, artificial intelligence and advanced technology testing area, and a ground station. These projects are designed to promote the space and technology industry, attract global investments and scientific research, and foster a sustainable knowledge-based economy in the region. The company's founder and CEO, Eng. Bahiya bint Hilalbin Sultan Al Shuaibi, highlighted that these initiatives will open opportunities for international and local institutions to invest in the space industry, leveraging Oman's strategic location as a suitable destination for space and satellite launches and research activities in the space sector. The company aims to engage various partners, including governments, space agencies, private companies, universities, researchers, investors, and entrepreneurs in the space industry, to elevate Oman's international standing in space and technology, foster international cooperation, and promote scientific tourism related to space sciences.
Egypt’s Nilesat Continues Partnership With France’s Ateme for Video Headend Technology Support
Ateme, a prominent player in video compression, delivery, and streaming solutions headquartered in France, has announced that its video headend technology is powering the latest communications satellite launched by Egypt’s Nilesat, a regional satellite broadcast service provider offering digital television, radio, and data services across the Middle East and Africa. This marks the third collaboration between Nilesat and Ateme, with the latest project focusing on Nilesat-301, their fourth satellite to be launched, aimed at enhancing coverage and delivering high-quality content across the region. Ateme provided its TITAN software solutions, enabling the delivery of approximately 50 channels, including HD and UHD. The project was successfully deployed in the first half of 2023, in partnership with Ateme's local associate, Systems Design. Nilesat's CTO, Maissa Kamel, expressed satisfaction with Ateme's modern and compatible video headend technology, emphasising the company's continuous support throughout their partnership. Razik Zaghlouli, Ateme's Regional Sales Director for MENA, emphasised the company's commitment to providing exceptional video quality, catering to the increasing expectations of African viewers and supporting Nilesat in delivering top-tier services to a broader audience across the MENA region.
Saudi Arabia’s Aramco Partners With OQ Technology for Satellite-Enabled IoT Services
OQ Technology has signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, solidifying their existing partnership and concentrating on automation and satellite-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity for Aramco's remote site infrastructures. The collaboration aims to combine Aramco's Intelligent Integrated Node (IIN) technology, an innovative automation infrastructure, with OQ's Low Earth Orbit (LEO) 5G NB-IoT infrastructure. The synergy between these technologies offers significant potential for accelerating the development of IoT applications, safety, security, healthcare, and various industries in Saudi Arabia and globally. The integrated package will include Aramco's automation edge technology developed by MOXA and OQ Technology infrastructure, with a focus on creating value in the network manufacturing value chain related to the oil and gas industry.
Dubai Airshow 2023 to Feature Strong Space Theme
The Dubai Airshow, set to take place from 13 to 17 November 2023, will highlight the growing importance of space in future growth and the aerospace industry as a whole. Following a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Dubai Airshow and the UAE Space Agency in 2021, the event will focus on space, aiming to develop pioneering partnerships and future projects locally and globally. The collaboration aims to enhance space-related themes and create a more collaborative approach toward space exploration. The Dubai Airshow 2023 will host a dedicated two-day conference on space, gathering high-profile leaders, government officials, and change-makers to explore possibilities in space exploration, sustainable space policies, and climate change solutions.
UAE and Türkiye Sign MoU to Co-Develop Commercial Launch Vehicle and Launch Site
During a state visit to the UAE by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the UAE and Türkiye signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the development of a joint launch vehicle capability and launch site for commercial purposes. The MoU was signed by the UAE Space Agency, the Turkish Ministry of Science, Industry, and Technology, and the Turkish Space Agency. Mehmet Fatih Kacir, the Turkish Minister of Science, Industry, and Technology said, “Thanks to the strategic cooperation that will be formed in this way, the opportunities for the establishment of a joint launch base and the development of a launch vehicle will increase even more. With these studies and projects, relations between Türkiye and the UAE will continue at the highest level." Official details are scarce, but it is known that Türkiye is developing its own space launch vehicle, known as the Space Launch System, or Uydu Fırlatma Sistemi (UFS) in Turkish. Specifically, Turkish defence and aerospace company Roketsan is developing the Micro-Satellite Launch Vehicle (MSLV) that is designed to initially deliver a 100 kilogram payload to a low-Earth orbit altitude of approximately 300 kilometres and is scheduled for its maiden launch in 2026. Reports suggest that Türkiye is considering building a $1 billion launch site in Somalia, but this is a risky location to launch from due to the stability of that country and the security situation in the Horn of Africa generally. It is not known what the nature of this launch vehicle and launch site co-development agreement is, but a likely scenario is a sizeable Emirati investment into the existing Turkish programme.
Israel’s Gilat Receives Large Contract from European Telecom Operator for Satellite Networking Technology
Israel’s Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd., a global leader in satellite networking technology and services, announced that a Tier 1 global telecommunications operator has selected Gilat to provide satellite connectivity for a major utility company in Western Europe. Utilising Gilat's SkyEdge II-c platform, the telecommunications operator will enable mission-critical Internet of Things (IoT) telemetry across hundreds of remote sites on the utility customer's national network. After rigorous proof-of-concept testing, Gilat's multi-service platform proved to be the optimal solution for serving this critical infrastructure. The successful implementation opens the door for the telecommunications operator to explore further applications, including cellular backhaul, emergency response, and various other IoT applications. Yossi Gal, Vice President of Regional Sales at Gilat, expressed confidence in the company's expertise, determination, and global team, highlighting the significant value they bring to this vital global customer.
U.S. Intelligence Claims that Russia is Aiding Iran’s Space Launch Vehicle Development and Military Space Programme
The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, has disclosed that Russian technicians are providing assistance to Iran's Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) and missile programme within the country. This collaboration raises concerns as it could potentially advance Iran's development of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and military space capabilities, bolstering its intelligence-gathering capabilities. Iran's SLVs are being developed with lift capacity and boosters that have the potential to reach ICBM ranges, including the United States if reconfigured, according to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The similarity in technologies between SLVs and ICBMs could facilitate Iran's progress in developing long-range missiles. Iran's space programme has already demonstrated intelligence-gathering capabilities, with its military satellites being used to collect information on U.S. military positions. Russia's assistance to Iran's SLV programme has raised concerns about its motivations, potentially serving as payment for Iranian support in the Ukraine war and strengthening Russian-Iranian relations.
Regional Space Diplomacy
Among the other regional space diplomacy engagements and agreements over the past week are:
Algeria and China commit to expand cooperation in space and satellite development;
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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