Middle East Space Roundup: 22-29 January 2023
A summary of all the space news in the Greater Middle East over the past week
Artistic rendering of Turkish synthetic aperture radar reconnaissance satellite Göktürk-3, expected to be launched later in 2023. Image courtesy of Millisavunma.com
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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22 January 2023
Turkish satellite imaging company IMPRO has signed a partnership agreement with Italian satellite manufacturer Telespazio on 20 January 2023. The agreement will see Telespazio provide IMPRO with technical assistance, software, and and training to IMPRO’s employees so that the company can produce “high value” geospatial information to its Turkish clients. To date IMPRO processes and sells satellite imagery taken by the Göktürk-1 reconnaissance satellite (resolution of 65 centimetres) operated by Türkiye’s defence ministry and built by Telespazio. The agreement between Telespazio and IMPRO is likely intended to prepare the Turkish company to process and market images from the Göktürk-3 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) reconnaissance satellite scheduled to be launched later in 2023.
Telespazio also signed a 10 million Euro deal on 20 January 2023 with Turkish company PALS Electronics for the latter to supply satellite antennas and related components to the Italian aerospace giant.
23 January 2023
Iran announced that its Internet of Things satellite programme, the Soleimani Satellite Constellation, is officially underway. Hassan Salarieh, the head of the Iranian Space Agency, made the announcement on the agency’s website. The Soleimani Satellite Constellation was approved less than a month ago at the meeting of Iran’s Supreme Space Council. Salarieh stated on the website announcement that, “[B]ased on the 10-year space program and in order to provide services to people, government institutions, and organizations as well as to provide services to private sector companies, the Iranian Space Agency has been tasked with placing a telecommunication satellite system in the Earth's orbit…It is regarded to be the first satellite system project of our country.” Salarieh added that the Soleimani Satellite Constellation will be comprised of narrowband communications satellites.
India is looking to step up its efforts to form space partnerships in the Middle East with countries such as Oman, Israel, and Egypt (see below for Egypt). The Muscat Daily reports that an official from the Indian Space Research Organisation is proposing to build a satellite data antenna in Oman, based on the 2018 memorandum of understanding on space cooperation between the two countries. Meanwhile, Israeli foreign policy expert Gedaliah Afterman writes in The Jerusalem Post that India and Israel would elevate their relations to a strategic partnership and that space cooperation should be a major area of collaboration between the two countries.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is partnering with Israel on a space-based astrophysics science mission called UltraSat. The agreement is expected to be signed imminently. UltraSat will carry an ultraviolet telescope payload that will be placed in geostationary orbit and will search for ultraviolet signatures from gravitational waves and study supernova explosions. UltraSat is being developed by the Weizmann Institute of Science with support from the Israel Space Agency and the German research centre DESY.
24 January 2023
Algeria signed a space cooperation agreement with Italy during a visit to Algiers by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The visit by the Italian prime minister was primarily to secure alternative sources of energy for Italy in light of the energy supply disruptions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The memorandum of understanding aims to “Establish a cooperation framework in the field of space exploration, Earth observation, space technologies and training, to implement projects of mutual interest.” The MoU was signed by the head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Director General of the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL). The MoU is valid for five years and will involve Algeria and Italy exchanging knowledge in space science and technology, conduct seminars and workshops, infrastructural project development, implementation of training programmes, and conducting research projects.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune at the presidential palace in Algiers, Algeria, January 23, 2023. AFP PHOTO / PALAZZO CHIGI PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT
Egypt’s Prime Minister Dr. Mustafa Madbouli chaired the annual board meeting of the Egyptian Space Agency in Cairo, where he acknowledged the important role of the agency in helping the country achieve its Sustainable Development Goals. The board meeting reviewed progress and developments in the implementation of Egypt’s national space programme, to include capacity building and the localisation of the satellite industry. The Prime Minister also reviewed the development of Egypt’s Space City project just outside of Cairo. Space City will feature satellite assembly facilities, space tourism amenities, and the new headquarters of the African Space Agency (see below) and the Egyptian Space Agency.
Israel and the United States conducted a joint military exercise called Juniper Oak 2023 that involved up to 142 aircraft and satellites - presumably operated by the U.S. Space Force and Israel Defense Forces. The Juniper Oak 2023 exercise is widely understood to be a deterrent signal to Iran and involved land, sea, air, space, and cyber forces from both countries. From the U.S. side, the space portion of the exercise was commanded by the newly created space component within U.S. Central Command (the U.S. geographical command responsible for the Greater Middle East) called SpaceCent.
Azerbaijan’s Azercosmos has signed a contract to provide satellite broadband internet to countries in central and Eastern Africa after concluding an agreement with Kenya’s CommCarrier. The agreement will see AzerSpace-2, one of Azercosmos’ two geostationary communication satellites, provide Ku-band services to CommCarrier.
25 January 2023
Saudi Arabia has launched its first private sector alliance to boost its commercial space sector. Called the Space Entrepreneurship Alliance, the initiative was launched by Frank Sulzberger, acting deputy governor of Saudi Arabia’s Communications, Information, and Space Technology Commission (CISTC), at the seventh edition of the Garage Disupt event in Riyadh. According to Salzberger the alliance, “…will be a platform to gather stakeholders to support Saudi entrepreneurs in innovation, as the Garage is the first to join this alliance.” The aim of the alliance is to support initiatives such as accelerator programmes, workshops, hackathons, as well as connect entrepreneurs with investors and experts.
In the United Arab Emirates, the newly appointed Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Engineer Issa Saif Mohammad Al-Mazrouei, met with Emmanuel Chiva, a Delegate General of France’s Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) in Abu Dhabi on 18 January 2021 to discuss cooperation in space defence industrial cooperation. According to Lebanese online publication Tactical Report, Lt. Gen. Al-Mazrouei is focusing on command and control and military space acquisitions since being promoted to Chief of Staff in early January 2023.
26 January 2023
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi has spoken about how he has received a special religious dispensation that allows him not to fast during the Holy month of Ramadan while he is on the International Space Station. Al Neyadi also spoke about how he will miss his family during his six-month mission and that he hopes one day an Emirati astronaut will step foot on the moon. Al Neyadi and his fellow crew are expected to be launched to the ISS on 26 February 2023 on board a SpaceX Dragon capsule.
Sarah Al Amiri, the Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, has an opinion piece published in the New Scientist magazine where she argues for a new model of space governance to be devised and implemented to address contemporary and future challenges in space. Al Amiri identifies increasing space debris risks due to overcrowded orbits as well as the militarisation of space as key issues to be addressed by spacefaring nations.
U.S. news magazine Time reveals that smugglers are bringing SpaceX’s Starlink satellite terminals into Iran across its porous borders with Armenia and Iraq, and provides insight into the risks these brave souls are taking as well as how elements of the Iranian regime facilitate cross-border smuggling.
The tiny Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius has signed a framework agreement with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai, UAE. Space Mauritius and MBRSC will cooperate together in space development and research and development in satellite technology. Mauritius launched its first satellite, MIR-SAT 1, in 2021 and is working with MBRSC, the Indian Space Research Organisation, and the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey in the UK, to develop satellite applications for national interests.
27 January 2023
Egypt and India have signed a comprehensive space cooperation agreement as part of the elevation of relations between the two countries to a strategic partnership during a state visit to India by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. The two countries have agreed to expand cooperation in space research, space science, satellite communications and practical applications of space technology to societal challenges. The partnership will also utilise India’s expertise in building and launching satellites and space technology applications. In turn, the Egyptian Space Agency is looking to leverage the partnership to train its engineers in satellite subsystems development, using artificial intelligence in space-related projects, and developing accurate and advanced applications in space.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, greets Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, in New Delhi, India, on 25 January 2023. Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg
The African Union and the Egyptian government inaugurated the African Space Agency during the official opening of the agency’s headquarters in Space City just outside of Cairo, Egypt. The inauguration was accompanied by a formal agreement between the AU and the Egyptian government that outlines the relationship between the two parties and commits them to researching and developing space and satellite technologies for the African continent.
28 January 2023
Azerbaijan’s Azercosmos reveals that it is using its AzerSky Earth observation satellite to monitor the water resources in the country. This alone is hardly newsworthy, but the satellite is also providing data on water resources in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ongoing source of armed conflict with Azerbaijan’s neighbour Armenia.
Tel Aviv University and the Israel Space Agency have set up Israel’s first observatory for satellite quantum communications. The observatory includes capabilities such as a “dome with a diameter of 4.25 meters, a tracking system, a primary high-speed camera and secondary cameras, laser equipment, single-photon detectors, and a tracking robot that enables the simultaneous carrying of two telescopes.” The establishment of the observatory follows the launch of Israel’s first experimental quantum communications satellite in early January 2023 that was built by a team from Tel Aviv University.
29 January 2023
Egypt takes up the presidency of the United Nations’ Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland. Chaired by Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ahmed Ihab Gamaleldin, the Conference on Disarmament seeks to negotiate reductions in weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear fissile materials, as well as the prevention of an arms race in outer space.
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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