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Middle East Space Roundup: 23 to 29 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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Saudi Arabia in Talks With France on Military Space Capabilities
Recent reports from Riyadh indicate that Saudi Arabia's space objectives, particularly in satellite technology, are set to receive a significant boost after discussions held at the Paris Air Show last month. The CEO of Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), Walid Abukhaled, revealed that France is keen to compete with China to supply the Kingdom with advanced optical Earth observation satellites. Talks between SAMI, Airbus, and Thales representatives have led to proposals from France's Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) to enhance Saudi Arabia's space capabilities in various domains. These proposals encompass improving geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) capabilities, offering Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites, and assisting in the integration of military satellite communications (MILSATCOM). Additionally, DGA expressed its willingness to share technology on ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) systems, including electronic warfare (EW) systems. While Abukhaled is keen to explore the French proposals further, the governor of the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), Engineer Ahmad Abdulaziz Al-Ohali, believes that cheaper systems and more technology transfer could be acquired through space cooperation with China. Al-Ohali highlighted that France possesses additional space systems that they have yet to offer as part of any sales package. The discussions represent a potential milestone in Saudi Arabia's quest to advance its space capabilities and satellite technology, but Riyadh’s decision on which country to go with may well have serious geopolitical and strategic implications.
UAE and China Exploring Cooperation in Space Defence: Report
Recent reports from Abu Dhabi indicate that the UAE remains committed to strengthening its relationship with China across various sectors, including defence, economics, trade, and investment, despite pressure from the United States. The course of defence relations between Abu Dhabi and Beijing is linked to the sovereign decision of President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, which is driven by national Emirati interests. A unified position has emerged among the Zayed family members regarding diversifying strategic military partnerships, particularly after the appointment of Sheikh Khaled Bin Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Although some family members had reservations about expanding defence cooperation with China to maintain strong strategic ties with the U.S., these reservations have now been withdrawn. The unified stance will allow ongoing contacts between Abu Dhabi and Beijing to enhance defence cooperation, including technology transfer and localisation in areas such as advanced electronic warfare (EW) systems, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), hypersonic missiles, and space defence systems. Additionally, the partnership includes the manufacturing of land and naval radars, cooperation in future fighter aircraft programmes, and continued collaboration in smart communications, despite objections from the U.S. The UAE's leadership remains determined to maximise its relations with China while maintaining strategic ties and defence partnerships with the United States. Whether, and how long, Abu Dhabi might be able to maintain this delicate strategic balancing act will be of interest to both Beijing and Washington, DC.
Azerbaijan and Egypt in Ongoing Discussions on Space Cooperation
Azerbaijan's Azercosmos and the Egyptian Space Agency are currently engaged in talks to explore potential cooperation in the space industry, as stated by Rashad Nabiyev, the Minister of Digital Development and Transport of Azerbaijan. The ongoing discussions between the two space agencies are seen as a significant addition to the existing agreements between Azerbaijan and some Egyptian companies concerning Azerbaijan's satellite capabilities. In addition to space collaboration, the minister also highlighted the importance of increasing the number of direct flights between Azerbaijan and Egypt, as it would facilitate cooperation in the areas of economy, trade, and tourism. The visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Baku earlier in the year was emphasised as a crucial event that further boosted the development of relations between the two countries. During this visit, both leaders discussed detailed prospects for political, economic, and cultural relations, with a focus on priority areas such as pharmaceuticals, the aluminium industry, the oil industry, and the renewable energy sector for future cooperation.
Egypt’s Nilesat Awarded Top Tier 4 Certification by World Teleport Association
The World Teleport Association (WTA) has awarded Nilesat's teleport facility in Cairo, Egypt, with the prestigious Tier 4 certification, which is the highest certification standard available. This recognition places Nilesat's facility among an exclusive list of Tier 4 certified teleports owned by reputable companies in the satellite broadcasting industry. Sameh Katta, CEO of Nilesat, expressed the company's dedication to providing high-quality services and its commitment to maintaining international standards in satellite broadcasting. The certification process involves a rigorous evaluation against WTA's standards, which includes completing a comprehensive questionnaire and undergoing an independent validation visit by an auditor. Achieving full certification under WTA's programme demonstrates Nilesat's high standards in providing teleport services and ensures the highest level of service quality for its customers in the Middle East and Africa. The Tier 4 certification remains valid for three years, reinforcing Nilesat's position as a leading teleport service provider in the region.
Türkiye's First Domestically Built Geostationary Communications Satellite, Türksat-6A, to be Launched in March 2024
Türkiye's Industry and Technology Minister, Mehmet Fatih Kacır, announced that Türkiye's first domestically developed communication satellite, Türksat-6A, is scheduled for launch into space in March 2024. The satellite was developed by TÜBİTAK UZAY, and despite the extensive testing required, it is expected to be successfully launched, similar to Türkiye's first domestically produced high-resolution Earth observation satellite, İMECE, which was launched on 15 April 2023. Minister Kacır emphasized the ministry's commitment to working closely with TÜBİTAK and revealed a budget of over 57 billion Turkish Liras ($2.1 billion) allocated to support 24,202 projects since 2002.
Profen and SES Team Up to Provide Satellite Communications Solutions in Türkiye and MENA Region
Global satellite communications operator SES and Profen, a global high-tech solutions firm, have joined forces to revolutionise connectivity in Türkiye and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The collaboration will utilise SES's O3b mPOWER system to deliver high-performance networks, catering to market opportunities that exceed 10Gbps. Profen will deploy SES's medium earth orbit (MEO) system, O3b mPOWER, and establish a gateway in Türkiye. By integrating the O3b mPOWER gateway into its networks, Profen aims to empower customers in sectors such as telecommunications, energy, and humanitarian aid with secure, low-latency networks, minimising data hops between endpoints and delivering seamless services. The collaboration will provide services like mobile backhaul, disaster recovery, and private 5G, benefitting companies in Türkiye, MENA, and Sub-Saharan Africa with reliable connectivity. This transformative partnership is expected to expand digital infrastructure and broadband capabilities, fostering economic growth, innovation, and improved quality of life throughout the region.
Azerbaijan’s Azercosmos Releases Half-Yearly Financial Results, Revenue Down
During the first half of 2023, Azercosmos, the satellite operator under the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport of Azerbaijan, exported services valued at $9.5 million to 43 countries, according to Azernews. This represents an increase of nine countries compared to the same period last year, but a decrease of $3.6 million likely due to the loss of its AzerSky Earth observation satellite, or 27.5%, from the previous year. In June 2023 alone, Azercosmos exported services, including satellite communications and optical Earth observation satellite services, to 40 countries, generating $1.7 million in revenue. The top five countries to which Azercosmos sold the most services during this six-month period were the United Kingdom with $2.7 million, Luxembourg with $2.1 million, UAE with $837,700, Germany with $522,200, and Pakistan with $444,400.
UAE Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi Enters Final Month on the International Space Station
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is approaching the end of his historic mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as he enters the final month of his stay. Having arrived on the ISS on 3 March 2023, Al Neyadi is set to return to Earth towards the end of August 2023, though the exact date is yet to be confirmed. During his time on the ISS, he has achieved several significant milestones, including conducting a spacewalk in April 2023, becoming the first astronaut from the Arab world to do so. Al Neyadi has been involved in over 200 experiments assigned by NASA and 19 others by UAE universities, with a focus on life sciences, cardiovascular research, and inspiring the next generation through live calls with pupils and social media posts. As part of the Crew-6 team, he has documented his journey with captivating images of the UAE and other parts of the world from space. Born in Al Ain, Al Neyadi holds a doctorate in information technology from Griffith University, Australia, and a bachelor of science degree in electronics and communication engineering from the University of Brighton, United Kingdom. He follows in the footsteps of Hazza Al Mansouri, who became the first Emirati in space during an eight-day mission to the ISS in 2019.
Djibouti, Egypt in Space Discussions With Russia
During the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Russian state-run space corporation Roscosmos and several countries reached agreements to enhance cooperation in the space domain. As part of Roscosmos' delegation activities, the corporation's top management held bilateral meetings with officials from Djibouti and Egypt, as well as from Zimbabwe, Uganda, and South Africa. The discussions centred on promising areas of collaboration, such as remote sensing of the Earth and the establishment of a necessary legislative framework to facilitate future joint projects. All sides expressed their commitment to intensify dialogue and pursue bilateral space and satellite projects of mutual interest. The second Russia-Africa Summit occurred on 27-28 July 2023.
Israeli-Made Reconnaissance Satellite Successfully Launched for Singapore
An Israeli-made synthetic aperture radar (SAR) reconnaissance satellite, DS-SAR, was successfully launched into space from India, and initial tests as of 30 July 2023 have shown flawless performance. Developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on behalf of Singapore's Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and ST Electronics engineering group, the satellite was launched from Sriharikota, India, on an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). IAI engineers confirmed that the satellite was functioning correctly during a series of tests, and it has already begun transmitting data to the ground station. The SAR sensor payload on DS-SAR allows the collection of a wide range of data, offering extensive coverage and resolution day and night, regardless of weather conditions. Although specific details about the satellite's mission were not provided, it is expected to provide imagery for various Singaporean agencies, and its development was based on experience gained from constructing other military reconnaissance satellites like OptSat for Italy and TecSAR for Azerbaijan. The DS-SAR satellite is the largest among the seven Singapore satellites in the ISRO launch manifest, weighing 362 kilograms.
Regional Space Diplomacy
Among the other regional space diplomacy engagements and agreements over the past week are:
Iran and Russia discussed telecommunications cooperation during a bilateral meeting in Tehran between Iran’s Information and Communication Technology Ministry and Russia’s telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor.
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), is leading a new era of Arab space exploration and reflects on his past five months in Earth orbit and its significance for the Arab world in an interview with Arab News. As the first Arab astronaut on a long-term space mission, AlNeyadi arrived on the ISS in March and became the first Arab to perform a spacewalk, marking significant milestones for the Arab world's burgeoning space industry. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are investing in their respective space sectors, with a focus on technology and medical research. AlNeyadi's mission involves over 200 experiments, including life sciences research to study the effects of microgravity on the human heart. He has also connected with students through live calls, promoting STEM education and inspiring future Arab astronauts. The ISS experience, offering breathtaking views of Earth, has fueled his passion for pushing the boundaries of space exploration and fostering economic diversification through advancements in the space industry.
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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