Middle East Space Roundup: 18 to 24 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 and Brazil Expand Strategic Partnership Into Space, Other Key Issues
Reem bint Ebrahim Al Hashimy, UAE’s Minister of State for International Cooperation, led a high-level delegation from the UAE to Brazil to discuss and strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The visit included meetings with senior officials from Brazil, where they discussed collaboration in various key areas such as renewable energy, science and technology, and space. Both sides expressed their commitment to expanding bilateral relations and exploring new areas of cooperation. The visit demonstrated the growing bilateral relations and the shared commitment of both countries to address global challenges and promote sustainable development.
Details Revealed On Why U.S. Blocked UAE Collaboration With China Lunar Mission
Juan Pons, correspondent for Spanish newspaper Atalayar, reveals details about why the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has raised concerns regarding the UAE's Rashid 2 lunar mission, which involves collaboration with China. The State Department has notified Emirati authorities that the lunar rover, which includes U.S.-origin components, falls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and is restricted from being flown on Chinese rockets. The ITAR regulations control the export of defence-related goods and services, including space-related items, to protect U.S. technology and intellectual property. The UAE must obtain a license from the State Department to ship the U.S.-made technology on Rashid 2 if they wish to continue collaborating with China on the Chang'e-7 mission. One of the requirements is for the director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Dubai Space Centre (MBRSC) to ensure measures are in place to prevent Chinese access to Rashid 2's design and technologies. Concerns are raised that Chinese spies may attempt to uncover the rover's secrets once it reaches the Wenchang space base. The UAE and China have an agreement for Rashid 2 to travel to the Moon on the Chang'e-7 lander, scheduled for launch in 2026, as part of China's lunar exploration programme.
UAE Apparently Joins China’s International Lunar Research Station Organisation
China has announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), along with several other countries, including Russia, Pakistan, Venezuela, and member-states of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organisation (APSCO), have committed to joining its International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) Moon base initiative. The ILRS project aims to construct a permanent lunar base by the 2030s, with stepping-stone missions planned in the coming decade. The project's headquarters will be located in Hefei, China, and will include centres focusing on design simulation, operation control, data processing, and research. China aims to define task sharing and sign intergovernmental agreements among founding countries of the ILRS Cooperation Organisation by the end of 2024. The ILRS will be used for scientific research, infrastructure development, and technology validation for future crewed missions to Mars. The ILRS is analogous to the U.S.-led Artemis programme (the UAE is also a signatory to the Artemis Accords), with both projects seeking international collaboration in lunar exploration. However, the UAE faced challenges due to U.S. export control rules (see summary above), which prevented its participation in the Chang'e-7 mission under the ILRS.
Israel Innovation Authority And Space Florida Announce Funding For U.S. And Israeli Space Startups
The Israel Innovation Authority and Space Florida have announced the award recipients of the tenth round of funding from the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership Programme. With $2 million available in funding, the programme aims to support the research, development, and commercialisation of aerospace and related technology projects to benefit both Florida and Israel's economies. The programme has facilitated groundbreaking advancements and entrepreneurial growth in the aerospace sector through the collaboration between the two entities. This year's award recipients include projects related to satellite communications, autonomous vehicles, lunar oxygen station development, and improved star tracking systems. The partnership between Space Florida and the Israel Innovation Authority has strengthened the ties between Florida and Israel and has fostered the emergence of cutting-edge technologies in the aerospace and space technology sectors.
Saudi Arabia’s SAMI And Serco Group Discuss Earth Observation Satellite Constellation And AI Opportunities
Walid Abukhaled, CEO of the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), held a meeting with Mark Irwin, CEO of Serco, at SAMI's headquarters in Riyadh, according to Tactical Report. The purpose of the meeting was to exchange experiences and knowledge in order to develop innovative solutions in the fields of technology and defence. Reports indicate that discussions were focused on Saudi Arabia's ongoing efforts to establish a high-resolution Earth observation satellite constellation programme. Abukhaled mentioned that Serco, along with Babcock Integrated Technology and Airbus Defence & Space, has been shortlisted to participate in a tender for operating ground control facilities for the satellite network. Additionally, SAMI expressed interest in a partnership with Serco in the area of military-grade artificial intelligence (AI), particularly in the transfer of technology related to machine learning algorithms for targeting and guidance systems.
Israel’s SpaceIL Likely Facing Closure And End To Beresheet II Lunar Mission
Israel's private space organisation, SpaceIL, is facing the possibility of shutting down its flagship lunar mission, Beresheet II, in the coming weeks due to the withdrawal of its main donors, according to co-founder Kfir Damari. The nonprofit organisation behind the $100 million programme experienced a shortfall after donors, including philanthropist Morris Kahn and the Patrick and Lina Drahi Foundation, decided not to continue their donations. The unexpected withdrawal of $45 million out of an initial pledge of $90 million caught SpaceIL by surprise. Damari cited "current times" and global financial uncertainty as possible reasons for the donors redirecting their resources to other philanthropic projects. The second Israeli mission, which aims to land two rovers in different locations on the moon, including the "dark side," may be jeopardised by the funding setback.
UAE’s MBRSC & UNOOSA Unveil Payload Hosting Initiative (PHI-Demo)
The UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has announced that the first mission of the Payload Hosting Initiative (PHI-Demo) is scheduled for launch on 27 June 2023 from Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome. This joint initiative between MBRSC and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs aims to accelerate the assessment and development of emerging space technologies. The mission will deploy a 12U modular satellite platform carrying two partner technology payloads. The satellite will feature an IoT communication payload by UAE-based start-up OQ Technology, enabling data storage and forwarding using 5G technology, and a green propulsion subsystem by SteamJet from the UK, which utilises water as a sustainable propellant. The launch of PHI-Demo represents a significant milestone in MBRSC's mission to advance space technology and achieve the UAE's visionary goals.
Israel And NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sign Space Exploration Cooperation Agreement
Israel and the United States have entered into an agreement to strengthen collaboration in the field of space exploration, as announced by the Israel Space Agency (ISA). Under this partnership with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Israeli scientists will have the opportunity to propose research projects that will be incorporated into JPL's work programme. A special meeting will be held in October 2023 at the JPL in Pasadena, California, to discuss the selected proposals. The JPL is primarily focused on building and operating robotic spacecraft for planetary exploration, as well as conducting missions in Earth orbit and astronomy. These missions encompass a range of objectives, including exploring the surface and interior of Venus, studying the subsurface ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa, collecting Martian rock samples to search for signs of past life, and more. The JPL also manages the NASA Deep Space Network, a vast system of radio antennas crucial for communication with interplanetary spacecraft missions.
Iraq To Allow Provision Of Satellite Broadband Internet Services
The Iraqi Ministry of Communications has announced its plans to launch internet services using satellites, aiming to provide the best internet connectivity to the people of Iraq, according to a statement reported by the Iraqi News Agency (INA). The statement highlights the challenges involved in deploying fiber-optic cables across all areas of the country, including excavation works and high costs. To diversify internet sources, enhance competition, and reduce prices, the Ministry has initiated the necessary contractual procedures to introduce an "internet via space" service for the first time in Iraq. Taking inspiration from developed countries, Iraq seeks to utilise low-Earth orbit satellite technologies that enable direct internet access for users through a vast network of satellites offered by reputable international companies. The ministry is currently in negotiations with these companies to swiftly provide satellite internet to the people of Iraq.
UAE And France Discuss Cooperation In Space Exploration, Other Key Issues
The 15th session of the UAE-France Strategic Dialogue took place in Paris, co-chaired by Anne-Marie Descotes and Khaldoun Khalifa Al Mubarak. The dialogue aimed to strengthen cooperation between the two countries based on their exceptional bilateral relations. They reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing collaboration in priority sectors, including climate action. Both sides emphasized the urgent need for increased efforts to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, such as reducing energy emissions and accelerating the transition to clean energy systems. They also stressed the importance of climate finance, adaptation support, and addressing loss and damage. Additionally, they discussed the role of peaceful nuclear energy, the need for international financial institution reforms, and cooperation in various fields such as science and technology, artificial intelligence, food security, nuclear energy, cybersecurity, and space exploration. The Summit for a New Global Financial Pact, to be held in Paris, will be a significant milestone in addressing these issues.
Egyptian Parliament Approves Egypt To Host HQ Of African Space Agency
The Egyptian House of Representatives has granted approval for Egypt to host the headquarters of the African Space Agency, following the signing of an agreement in Cairo. The agreement aims to promote and implement space-related policies and strategies, harness technology for economic and sustainable development, and improve the well-being of African citizens. The House of Representatives highlighted that the agreement would support Egypt's space industry and stimulate small industries related to space technology, ultimately aiding the national economy. The satellite data provided by the African Space Agency will contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals and Africa's Agenda 2063. Hosting the agency's headquarters is seen as a significant step toward knowledge-based development in Africa. The decision to host the agency was approved by the Egyptian Cabinet in May 2023, recognising Egypt's advanced technologies in the field of space science.
Saudi Space Agency And Airbus Discuss Space Collaboration
Saudi Space Agency Vice Chairman Mohammed Saud Al-Tamimi and Airbus' head of Aerospace Jean-Marc Nasr met during the Paris Air Show to discuss collaboration and the development of the space sector. The meeting aimed to explore potential joint projects and ways to invest in the space industry, aligning with shared objectives in the economic and strategic aspects of space and its technologies. The discussion comes after the successful mission of two Saudi astronauts, Ali Al-Qarni and Rayana Barnawi, to the International Space Station, which showcased Saudi Arabia's progress in space exploration. The astronauts conducted various research projects during their stay, including kite experiments involving 12,000 school students across the Kingdom. The Saudi Space Agency highlighted the significance of these achievements for humanity and expressed pride in the nation's leading roles in space exploration, with support from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
UAE Space Agency Hosts Workshop For Businesses Wishing To Contribute To Emirates Mission To The Asteroid Belt
The UAE Space Agency hosted a workshop where businesses from around the world had the opportunity to participate in the country's most ambitious space mission to date. The mission involves the development of the MBR Explorer spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch in 2028 to study six asteroids in the main asteroid belt and attempt a landing on a seventh. The agency aims to involve the private sector in at least 50% of the mission, including the spacecraft development, to boost the national economy. Representatives from over 160 local and international companies attended the workshop, showcasing their interest in contributing to the project. This approach aligns with the trend of increased collaboration between government agencies and private companies in the space industry. The UAE Space Agency's campaign, "Space Means Business," highlights the available opportunities for companies to be involved in building the spacecraft, and the long-term contracts on offer. The mission to the asteroid belt holds significant scientific value as it could provide insights into the formation of Earth and other planets.
UAE’s Yahsat Subsidiary Saves Chinese Fishermen in Sea of Japan With SATCOM Service
Yahsat and its mobility arm, Thuraya Telecommunications Company, partnered with Chinese governmental agencies, including China's Embassy in the UAE and its Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), to successfully rescue a group of Chinese fishermen lost at sea. The incident, which occurred on 20 May 2023, highlighted the importance of satellite-enabled connectivity and cross-border cooperation in critical and life-threatening situations. The Chinese Embassy expressed gratitude to Yahsat for their timely support and explored possibilities of strengthening safety services on small boats. Yahsat's Group CEO emphasized the significance of the mission, stating that their cutting-edge solutions are vital for saving lives. This rescue marks the second instance in which Yahsat directly contributed to a successful rescue operation, underscoring the importance of equipping small boats with satellite communication gear. In 2022, Yahsat saved nearly 130 lives through their 'Save Lives' campaign.
Azerbaijan’s Parliament Passes Space Activities Law
The Parliament of Azerbaijan (Milli Majlis) has discussed and passed a new draft law called "On Space Activities" in its third reading. The bill outlines the principles that will govern space activities in Azerbaijan, including the peaceful use of outer space, protection of national interests, rational use of space resources, state control over national activities, safety of space activities and the space industry, and the reduction of the impact of space debris on the environment. The establishment and development of the space industry in Azerbaijan began in 2009 with the implementation of modern space projects, leading to the establishment of the Open Joint Stock Company Azercosmos in 2010. Since then, Azerbaijan has launched the telecommunications satellite Azerspace-1 in 2013, the Earth observation satellite Azersky in 2014, and the telecommunications satellite Azerspace-2 in 2018. In 2021, the Space Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azercosmos) was established as a legal entity of public law under the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and High Technologies of Azerbaijan.
UAE’s du And Eutelsat Partner For Satellite Broadcasting Throughout MENA
UAE’s du, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC), has announced a partnership with Eutelsat Communications to upgrade direct-to-home satellite services in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This collaboration aims to expand du's capacity at the 7/8° West orbital position, providing its media customers with the ability to deliver high-definition content and enhance the user experience. The 7/8° West orbital position offers extensive coverage and is home to approximately 900 TV channels, making it a valuable location for broadcasters. By increasing satellite capacity through this partnership, du aims to cater to customers broadcasting TV channels in both standard and high definition, ensuring improved service quality and reach. The collaboration highlights the commitment of both companies to meeting the growing demands of broadcasters and content providers in the MENA region.
The Jewish Chronicle’s Daniel Ben David interviews Professor Dan Blumberg, head of Israel's Space Agency, who emphasised the need for precision and meticulousness in launching rockets from Israel due to the potential risk of triggering a war with neighbouring countries. Blumberg highlighted the interconnectedness of space technology and Israel's economy, stating that countries like the U.S. will increasingly rely on Israel's expertise in this field. Israel's achievements in space include achieving lunar orbit in 2019 and attempting a soft landing on the Moon, and their flagship project, the Ultrasat telescope, will be launched in early 2026. The telescope aims to revolutionise deep space observation and provide valuable information for other space agencies. Blumberg also emphasised the importance of viewing Earth from space to better understand and address climate change. Israel's space industry is transitioning towards the private sector, following the trend observed globally.
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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