Middle East Space Roundup: 19 to 25 November 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 EDGE Group Named as Prime for Sirb SAR Earth Observation Programme
The UAE Space Agency and EDGE Group, the UAE’s leading advanced technology and defence group, have joined forces through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to advance the Sirb program that was initially announced by the space agency in the summer of 2022. The Sirb initiative aims to launch the first of three synthetic aperture radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites, Sirb-1, by 2026, aligning with the UAE government's commitment to fostering opportunities for national firms, including startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in the private space sector. EDGE will serve as the prime contractor with a specific focus on developing the SAR payload. Meanwhile, Yahsat and Bayanat will manage satellite operations, data, and space applications, and the National Space Science and Technology Centre (NSSTC) will provide assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) operations. This collaboration underscores the UAE's ambition to domestically produce space technologies and cultivate local expertise in research, development, engineering, and science within the space sector. The MoU also marks EDGE Group’s entry as a satellite manufacturing company, among the first in the Arab world.
UAE’s EDGE Group Signs MoU’s with Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and the National Space Science and Technology Centre
Further marking its entry into the satellite manufacturing business, EDGE Group has inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). This collaborative agreement aims to facilitate knowledge exchange and data sharing, showcasing EDGE's dedication to expanding its expertise into the space industry. The UAE's space technology journey has been marked by rapid advancements, addressing diverse challenges and fostering growth across various sectors. The partnership underscores MBRSC's commitment to establishing the UAE as a regional and global leader in space. For EDGE, this collaboration aligns with its strategic goals to become a significant contributor to the space industry, leveraging MBRSC's advanced space programmes and data insights. EDGE Group has also signed an MoU with the National Space Science and Technology Centre (NSSTC) in Al Ain, to facilitate a partnership for satellite assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) operations.
Egypt Assumes Presidency of the Arab Space Cooperation Group
Egypt has assumed the presidency of the Arab Space Cooperation Group (ASCG), marking a transition after nine years of the UAE's chairmanship. Dr. Sherif Sedqi, CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency, presented the agency's recent achievements during the ninth ASCG meeting. Egypt has completed the first phase of the Space City and has been selected to host the headquarters for the African Space Agency. Additionally, its assembly, integration, and test (AIT) centre, the largest in Africa, has been finalised. The country is set to launch the MisrSat-2 Earth observation satellite on 3 December 2023, followed by the NexSat experimental satellite on 25 December 2023. Egypt expressed its readiness to support the development of the space sector in the Arab world and offered its capabilities to host member states. The next ASCG conference will convene in September 2024 at the Egyptian Space Agency's headquarters.
Iranian Aerospace Exhibition Showcases Space Technology and New Drone Based on U.S. RQ-170 Downed by GPS Jamming and Spoofing
Iran's aerospace capabilities were showcased at an exhibition attended by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Among the unveiled systems were the Fattah-2 missile, the Mehran mobile air defence system, an upgraded missile defence system known as Day-9, and the Shahed-147 drone. The exhibition displayed the latest achievements of the Aerospace Division of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and included sections on missiles, drones, air defence, and space technology. Iran also unveiled footage showcasing the production of its Shahed-171 drones, essentially a replica of the U.S.-manufactured RQ-170 Sentinel drone that Iran shot down in 2011. The video highlights multiple versions of the drone being manufactured, incorporating what appears to be advancements in technology and production processes. Notably, the video also demonstrates the drone conducting trial strikes on terrestrial targets. Iran's downing of the RQ-170 in 2011 involved a combination of electronic warfare techniques like jamming and satellite navigation spoofing. Over the years, Iran has pursued reverse engineering, resulting in various clones of the RQ-170 with differing purposes but a shared design. While there are varying assessments of the drone's role, most sources suggest it possesses missile-carrying capabilities, raising concerns about its potential applications.
UAE’s University of Sharjah Signs Up for China’s International Lunar Research Station Initiative
China has expanded its partnerships for its ambitious Moon base project, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Sharjah (UoS) in the UAE. The MoU, signed by the Deep Space Exploration Laboratory (DSEL) and UoS, focuses on cooperation in implementing, operating, and utilising the ILRS. This collaboration will involve scientific and technological experiments, data exchange, analysis, teaching, training, and space exploration capabilities development. The ILRS, led by China, aims to establish a permanent lunar base in the 2030s, potentially competing with NASA's Artemis programme. The UAE's stance on the ILRS is not clear, but this agreement provides an avenue for cooperation, aligning with China's efforts to build partnerships with Arabian Gulf countries in space exploration. This development highlights the emergence of distinct international space industry ecosystems amid growing geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China.
UAE Hosts the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference in Dubai
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is holding a pivotal World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai, UAE, where the allocation of finite spectrum resources will be hotly debated. The space industry faces not only pressure from terrestrial telecom companies seeking spectrum for 5G but also infighting among space companies, particularly between legacy operators and emerging non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) players. Agenda Item 10 is a key point of contention, focusing on whether to review rules limiting NGSO satellite power to avoid interference with geostationary spacecraft. There's also debate over how closely NGSO satellites should adhere to registered orbital positions, which affects the increasingly congested satellite environment. Amid these challenges, there are opportunities, such as unlocking more spectrum for satellite communications and improving satellite links for resiliency and mobility. However, managing orbital debris and enforcing space debris regulations are emerging as sleeper issues that could reshape space regulation. Hosting WRC-23 marks another milestone for the UAE as a global space convening power to diplomatically address a range of international space policy issues.
South Korea’s Intellian Technologies Establishes Presence in the UAE
South Korea’s satellite antenna manufacturer Intellian Technologies is expanding its global presence by establishing a new entity in Dubai, UAE, strategically positioning itself to serve the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. This move marks the company's 10th global city and underscores its commitment to enhancing relationships with distribution partners and customers in the MEA maritime and enterprise markets. By fostering closer ties with regional partners and network operators, Intellian aims to better understand their unique needs and deliver solutions that exceed expectations. This expansion follows the recent launch of its enterprise division, advancements in antenna technology, an expanded government portfolio, and the introduction of new Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) solutions, showcasing the company's dedication to growth and innovation in the industry.
UAE’s Thuraya Partners with Norway’s AnsuR for SATCOM Video Compression Capabilities
Thuraya Telecommunications Company, a subsidiary of UAE’s Yahsat, has formed a strategic partnership with AnsuR Technologies AS, a leading Norwegian technology firm, to introduce their advanced video compression technology, Asmira, to international markets. Asmira is a versatile, network-agnostic software solution tailored for video streaming from remote sites and platforms, offering a wide range of benefits across various use cases. This collaboration expands Thuraya's solution portfolio, making Asmira available through its global distribution network with bundled licenses and airtime subscription packages. The move aligns with Yahsat's strategy to address the growing market demand for video and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) solutions, enhancing situational awareness, safety, and security. Asmira's key advantages include efficient bandwidth utilisation, low bitrates for operation in constrained bandwidth environments, and the ability to deliver high-quality video with lightweight equipment. This partnership reflects the proactive approach of Yahsat and Thuraya in anticipating market needs, and AnsuR's advanced video compression technology is well-suited for a diverse range of use scenarios.
Thales Alenia Space to Provide Communication Transponder for Türkiye’s First Lunar Mission
Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo, has entered into a contract with TÜBİTAK Space Technologies Research Institute (TÜBİTAK UZAY) to supply a communication transponder for AYAP-1, Türkiye's inaugural lunar mission. AYAP is a vital component of Türkiye's National Space Programme, spearheaded by the Turkish Space Agency, with TÜBİTAK UZAY leading the design, development, integration, testing, launch, and operations of the AYAP-1 spacecraft. This mission signifies Türkiye's aspiration to achieve its first lunar exploration mission and join the select group of countries with lunar capabilities. Thales Alenia Space will furnish an S-band tracking, telemetry, and command (TT&C) transponder, a critical component that establishes communication between the spacecraft and the ground station. The TT&C transponder facilitates command reception, telemetry transmission, and spacecraft status monitoring.
Egypt Chosen to Lead UN Effort to Draft Treaty on Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space
Egypt has been unanimously chosen to lead a United Nations team of experts responsible for drafting a treaty aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space. The announcement by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs signifies international recognition of Egypt's leadership in disarmament and international security. The team, led by Egypt's Plenipotentiary Minister Bassam Hassan, will work in accordance with a General Assembly resolution to develop recommendations for the desired treaty. The move comes in response to increasing global awareness of the strategic risks posed by the proliferation of military capabilities in outer space, including antisatellite (ASAT) weapons. Given the critical role of outer space applications in modern technology and infrastructure, this initiative is crucial to safeguarding vital areas such as communications, the internet, navigation, weather forecasting, and other important applications. The formation of this expert team aligns with the 1981 UN resolution reaffirming the principles of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and underscores Egypt's balanced and objective approach to addressing contemporary arms race challenges in various technology fields. Egypt's presidency of this UN team highlights its commitment to advancing global security and disarmament efforts in an era of increasing reliance on satellites.
Head of European Space Agency is Keen to Cooperate with the UAE on Space Exploration
Dr. Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), expressed a keen interest in expanding cooperation with the UAE in the realm of space exploration. ESA, with its budget, recently boosted to nearly $8 billion, is undergoing a transformation in its space exploration ambitions, including a substantial astronaut programme, which aims to conduct crewed lunar missions and extend exploration beyond the Moon within the next decade. Dr. Aschbacher sees potential in partnering with the UAE, acknowledging the country's emergence as a significant player in space endeavours. While Europe has excelled in satellite construction and launches, the region is now accelerating its space exploration efforts. Driven by a paradigm shift in competitiveness and investments, ESA envisions developments like a competitive heavy launcher and crewed lunar cargo vehicles. Furthermore, the ESA is actively contributing to climate change monitoring through its Copernicus programme, utilising Earth observation satellites to provide critical data for climate adaptation strategies. Overall, ESA's growing ambition and commitment to international cooperation signal an exciting era in space exploration and collaboration, with potential opportunities for partnership with the UAE.
Azerbaijan, Brazil, Sign Space Cooperation Agreement
Azerbaijan’s Azercosmos and the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) have formalised a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance space cooperation between Brazil and Azerbaijan. The MoU outlines collaborative efforts in space science, technology, and applications, establishing a framework for future space-related cooperation. This partnership aims to leverage satellite imagery data to support socio-economic development in both countries, focusing on areas such as agriculture, water resources, urban planning, environmental assessment, disaster monitoring, and more. Additionally, the agreement emphasises academic and training opportunities for personnel and encourages student participation in space science, technology, and application development programmes. Samaddin Asadov, Chairman of Azercosmos, and Marco Antonio Chamon, head of the AEB, underscored the significance of this cooperation in advancing their respective countries' space industries, scientific research, technological innovation, education, and overall economic development. This collaboration underscores the growing importance of international partnerships in the space sector to harness the benefits of space technology for various societal and economic needs.
UAE’s Orbital Space Partners with Italy’s CRP Technology to Build Parts for Planned Lunar Mission
Italy’s CRP Technology has established a significant partnership with Orbital Space, a private space firm based in the UAE, as part of the Orbital Space's Lunaris Moon Mission dedicated to lunar exploration. Orbital Space, a player in the region's commercial space exploration sector, emphasises educational space missions and scientific research in its efforts to democratise access to space. This collaboration reflects the mutual commitment of both companies to advancing space exploration. CRP Technology, renowned for its expertise in space-qualified materials, will contribute its know-how to manufacture functional parts and components for the lunar payload using professional Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and high-performance composite materials like Windform. These materials meet the rigorous mechanical requirements for space applications. The partnership underscores the significance of cross-industry collaborations and showcases the growing role of 3D printing technology in the space sector, particularly in the UAE's burgeoning space exploration endeavours.
Russia Seeks Arab, Turkish Support for its Russian Orbital Complex Space Station Concept
Russia has unveiled plans for the Russian Orbital Complex (ROS) at the Dubai Air Show, signaling Russia's intent to develop its own space station as the International Space Station (ISS) nears its end. ROS, designed for modular construction and collaboration with third countries, aims to host scientific research and educational missions. Russia seeks cooperation from Arab, African, and Asian nations, especially Türkiye and BRICS members. The construction of ROS faces challenges due to the ongoing Ukraine conflict and resource allocation, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek international collaboration and financial support. ROS will employ the Angara family of launchers and the Orel crew capsules, with the first module expected in orbit by 2027. Unlike the ISS, ROS will not be continuously inhabited. ROS leverages lessons from the ISS and is intended to have a long operational life, possibly spanning 50 years.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson to Visit India, UAE for Space and Climate Change Talks
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is embarking on a diplomatic mission to India and the United Arab Emirates to engage in high-level meetings with government officials and space agencies. In the UAE, Nelson will participate in the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28), highlighting NASA's global leadership in Earth science data provision. Importantly, this marks the first time a NASA administrator has attended the conference. Additionally, Nelson will engage with students in both countries to discuss STEM education and inspire the Artemis Generation, showcasing NASA's commitment to international collaboration and space exploration.
Türkiye Launches First Ever Hybrid Rocket System into Space
Türkiye’s DeltaV Space Technologies has achieved a significant milestone by launching its Sonde Rocket System (SORS) above the 100 km altitude mark, becoming the world's first hybrid rocket system using paraffin and liquid oxygen to reach space. Developed within the framework of the Turkish Space Agency (TUA) Lunar Research Program Project (AYAP), the Hybrid Propulsion System (HIS) served as the second stage of the SORS payload, igniting and marking the first-ever firing of a hybrid rocket engine in space. DeltaV Space Technologies aims to leverage the cost-effectiveness and safety advantages of probe rockets, as they are not permanently placed in space, making them more affordable and suitable for various applications, including scientific experiments and air and ballistic defence system tests. The success of this project positions Türkiye as a player in the space industry, with ambitions to further develop its hybrid rocket technology and potentially use it in orbital transfer vehicles and other space-related endeavours.
Other News in Brief
Among the other regional space and satellite developments over the past week are:
The Australia-Israel Be’er Sheva Dialogue included discussions on “space with opportunities to develop small satellites and potentially to launch Israeli satellites from northern Australia.”
The UAE embassy in France hosts a ‘Space Majlon’ to discuss UAE-France space cooperation and issues of common interest;
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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