Middle East Space Roundup: 24 to 30 September 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:
Thanks for reading Middle East Space Monitor powered by AzurX! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
UAE Emirate of Sharjah Initiates Work on SharjahSat-2 CubeSat
Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and President of the University of Sharjah, oversaw the signing of a cooperation agreement between multiple entities including the Sharjah Academy of Astronomy, Space Sciences & Technology (SAASST) and the Sharjah Municipality to collaborate on the implementation of the CubeSat project, known as SharjahSat-2. This collaborative initiative involves both government and academic institutions affiliated with the University of Sharjah and aims to create a cubic satellite consisting of six cubic pieces measuring 10x20x30 centimeters each. The satellite will have five subsystems: power, communication, guidance and control, data processing, and exterior structure. The primary payload will be a spectral camera with high-resolution capabilities. The project's data and images will be utilised for urban planning, environmental monitoring, and risk management, providing valuable insights for decision-making and research.
Turkish City of Bursa Hosts Association of Space Explorer’s Planetary Congress
The Turkish city of Bursa hosted a significant historical event in the field of space and aviation, where 70 astronauts and cosmonauts convened for the Planetary Congress organised by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE). The congress's theme, "The Future is in the Sky," was inspired by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's vision. In his address, Bursa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BTSO) Chairman İbrahim Burkay highlighted the shift of international competition towards space and Türkiye's efforts in this field. He emphasised the importance of space for technological advancement and noted that Türkiye's aerospace and defence cluster, comprising over 120 companies, has gained recognition. Burkay also celebrated the success of GUHEM, Europe's largest space and aviation education centre, brought to Türkiye by BTSO. The congress explored various topics in space science and its economic potential, with the participation of Turkish astronaut candidates, further solidifying Türkiye's presence in the space arena.
Arab States Show Interest in Chinese Meteorological Technologies and Satellites
China is receiving interest from several Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, for cooperation in meteorological technology to address the increasing climate change-related challenges. Extreme weather events such as heatwaves, rainstorms, hurricanes, droughts, and floods are becoming more frequent globally. Many Arab countries are keen on working with China in meteorology, particularly in the areas of cloud seeding technology and lidar systems for meteorological observation. The use of China's meteorological satellite system Fengyun for disaster prevention and reduction is also gaining traction. Fengyun satellites have provided remote sensing monitoring services to Arab countries and play a significant role in wildfire monitoring and other climate events. This cooperation aligns with the shared goals of reducing carbon emissions and adopting renewable energy sources in both China and the Middle East.
Israel’s SpaceIL Determined to Raise Funds for Troubled Beresheet-2 Lunar Mission
Israel's SpaceIL organisation, known for its Beresheet lunar mission, is facing financial difficulties in its attempt to launch Beresheet-2, a mission involving three spacecraft. The original Beresheet mission, launched in 2019, ended in a crash landing on the Moon. The cost of Beresheet-2 is estimated at around $100 million, with about $45 million secured so far. SpaceIL is now seeking additional donors to support the mission planned for mid-2026. Despite the financial challenges, SpaceIL remains committed to its ambition of reaching the Moon and continuing its educational-scientific mission. The Israel Space Agency is also advocating for increased government assistance to support the country's growing space industry, which has significant growth potential.
Iran’s IRGC Launch Noor-III Military Imaging Satellite Using Qassed Booster
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has successfully launched its third military satellite, the Noor-III imaging satellite, into orbit. The satellite operates at an altitude of 450 kilometers (280 miles) above the Earth's surface and was launched using the three-stage Qassed launch vehicle. The U.S. military has raised concerns that the same technology used for satellite launches could potentially be used for long-range ballistic missiles, including ones capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Tehran denies such claims, asserting that its space activities are not cover for ballistic missile development and that it has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran has faced previous setbacks in its satellite launch attempts due to technical issues, and the recent launch comes amid ongoing international sanctions related to its aerospace and military activities. The satellite, manufactured by the IRGC Aerospace Force, will be used to fulfill the intelligence requirements of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). Major General Hossein Salami, the IRGC commander, stated that the new satellite is equipped with higher-quality and higher-resolution imaging devices compared to its predecessors, Noor-I and Noor-II. The launch is part of the IRGC's efforts to achieve more advanced technologies, with successive satellites contributing to its intelligence capabilities. The United States has quietly acknowledged Iran's successful launch of the Noor-III satellite by the IRGC, despite previous criticism of such launches. The U.S. military did not respond to requests for comment but data published by space-track.org confirmed the launch, putting the satellite over 450 kilometers above Earth's surface, in line with Iranian state media reports.
Iran’s Leaders Celebrate Noon-III Satellite Launch in Face of Sanctions
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi celebrated the successful launch of the Noor-III satellite into orbit, viewing it as a national achievement and a testament to Iran's resilience in the face of enemy sanctions and threats. He congratulated the Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) space experts while emphasising his administration's support for the country's space industry. Raisi called on the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology and the Iranian Space Agency to continue advancing the nation's space capabilities. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian praised the project as a result of the relentless efforts of the country's young scientists and experts, highlighting Iran's progress in the civilian space programme despite Western sanctions. Iran's successful satellite launch demonstrates its position as one of the world's top 10 countries capable of developing and launching satellites he said.
Head of Iran’s IRGC Space Division Offers Qassed Launch Services to Neighbouring Countries
Brigadier General Ali Jafarabadi, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Space Division, announced that Iran possesses the capability to launch small satellites into space for neighbouring countries using the homegrown Qassed satellite launch vehicle. He explained that after two or three launches, the IRGC would be able to offer this service to neighbouring nations. General Jafarabadi also shared that the Noor-III imaging satellite, with data code 57962, quickly stabilised after its launch and is progressing toward full operational status. Notably, this launch marked the debut of satellite thrusters for fine-tuning orbits and maintaining altitude. The success of Noor-III is part of Iran's broader plans to establish a satellite constellation in orbit, with two more launches scheduled by the end of the Islamic year.
Investors Hopeful in Search of Israeli Space Startups that Could become Unicorns
Investments in the space sector are on the rise globally, with venture capital funds contributing to the growth. In Israel, the space sector is gaining attention from both private investors and established organisations like the Israel Space Agency. Despite challenges, including the need for substantial capital investments and technological maturation, Israel is poised to carve out a niche in the global space industry, with a focus on infrastructure-related areas and satellite-based services. Early-stage investors, like Fred Simon, recognise the interconnectedness of space and software, emphasising the role of software in managing various aspects of space missions and its potential applications beyond space exploration. Israel's sharp entrepreneurial minds and engineering capabilities position it as a hub for space-related innovation, with the potential to produce unicorns in the sector in the future.
Israel’s Space Sector Experiences Growth Due to Geopolitical Tensions and Launch Cost Reductions
Despite the numerous challenges Israel has faced this year, particularly driven by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the country's defence and space industries have experienced significant growth. Elon Musk's SpaceX revolutionised satellite launch costs, making space more accessible. Israel's space industry has launched three satellites this year and ImageSat International (ISI), a subsidiary of Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has played a pivotal role. ISI, under CEO Noam Segal's leadership, has witnessed a surge in demand, launching two reconnaissance satellites in response to the European conflict and global concerns. Furthermore, Israel has relaxed its satellite export policy, fostering an environment where defence industries can maintain their capabilities and compete globally while safeguarding national secrets. This approach has resulted in Israel launching satellites for various countries and supplying reconnaissance satellites to loyal customers, such as Azerbaijan. The space industry's growth in Israel reflects its competitive position in a rapidly evolving global landscape.
Top Israeli Military Space Official Talks About Military Space and Space Weapons
Avi Berger, Head of the Space and Satellite Administration within Israel's Ministry of Defense's Directorate for Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), provides insights into the intricacies of launching Israeli satellites. Describing it as a "wild and complicated operation," he emphasises the meticulous coordination and precision required to ensure zero malfunctions. Israel's satellites, like the Ofek-13 reconnaissance satellite, are launched towards the west, unlike most other countries that launch eastward in the direction of Earth's rotation, which complicates the process but minimises the risk of satellite or launcher fragments falling into inhabited or enemy territories. These satellites offer advanced capabilities, particularly synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging, allowing for day and night surveillance even in adverse weather conditions, enhancing intelligence collection for the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Israel's satellite industry continues to innovate, with Rafael challenging the long-standing dominance of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with its innovative, low-cost nanosatellite constellation concept. Berger anticipates continued growth in Israel's space capabilities, including broader satellite constellations, over the next decade, ensuring Israeli regional superiority in space. Berger also keeps an open mind on whether Israel will develop so-called “space weapons,” indicating that any decision to do so will depend on how the regional and global space security environment will evolve in the coming years.
Russia’s Electronic Warfare Systems in Syria Likely Jamming Civil Aviation GPS in Israel
The Israel Airports Authority has reported disruptions in GPS systems affecting planes landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. Flights have been redirected to alternative routes due to these issues. A Western source suggests that Russian electronic warfare systems in Syria could be causing the disruptions, as they do not have a direct line of sight to most of Israeli territory but can impact Israeli airspace. This situation has precedent, as GPS disruptions have occurred in the past, potentially linked to Russia’s military activities in Syria. The disruptions highlight the vulnerabilities of global navigation satellite systems and the need for advanced navigation combat techniques. The United States has developed technologies to counter such disruptions, while Israel's expertise in electronic warfare may position it well to address these challenges and export-related technology.
Israel to Provide Germany with Arrow-3 Missile Defence and ASAT System
Israel's Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant, has signed a historic agreement with Germany to supply Berlin with the Arrow-3 air defence system for $3.5 billion. This agreement is considered Israel's largest-ever defence export. Germany had previously agreed to advance funding to meet an accelerated delivery date. The Arrow-3, designed as the top-tier of Israel’s multi-layered air and missile defence system, is capable of confronting exoatmospheric threats, and can even be used as an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon. The deal comes in the context of the Ukraine war and increasing defence procurement across Europe. The Arrow-3 sale illustrates the growing demand for Israeli air and missile defence technology. Gallant also highlighted the Iranian threat, emphasising the importance of missile defence systems in countering Iran's activities.
Civilian Aviation Report GPS Spoofing and Jamming along Iraq-Iran Border
Aircraft flying near Iran recently experienced complete navigation failures due to false electronic signals mimicking GPS data, according to an aircraft security group. The spoofing incident represents the first time such false GPS signals have penetrated aircraft systems, with previous GPS jamming incidents reported in other regions. These false signals were received by inertial reference systems (IRS), previously considered impervious to GPS spoofing. When IRS systems received false GPS positions, they corrupted all primary navigation systems, creating potential safety risks for aircraft flying in the region, including the possibility of straying into Iranian airspace. Military aircraft are equipped with GPS receivers designed to resist deceptive signals, but civilian avionics remain vulnerable. The origin of the false signals was not identified, but their proximity to Iran suggests advanced electronic warfare capabilities.
Turkish Astronaut Intends to Take Azerbaijani Flag on Space Mission
Turkish astronaut Tuva Cihangir Atasever, one of two Turkish astronauts set to go into space, has expressed his intention to take the flag of Azerbaijan with him during his mission, which is expected to occur in the first quarter of the next year. Atasever, who has Azerbaijani heritage, plans to carry two flags and several photographs on his space journey. His remarks were made as thousands of ethnic Armenians fled the contested region of Nagorno Karabakh after Azerbaijan conducted military operations that effectively ended the breakaway region’s rule by Armenian separatists. Atasever’s mission is part of Türkiye's broader initiative to enhance its space exploration capabilities and establish a national human space programme. Axiom Space, a U.S.-based commercial space company, is collaborating with Turkish agencies, including TÜBİTAK Space Technologies Research Institute (TÜBİTAK UZAY) and the Turkish Space Agency (TUA), to facilitate this effort. The mission marks a significant step in Türkiye's ambitious 10-year space roadmap, which includes missions to low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and the development of internationally competitive satellite systems.
Azerbaijan’s Azercosmos Reports SATCOM Export Revenues for January to August 2023
Azercosmos OJSC, Azerbaijan’s satellite operator, has reported the export of satellite telecommunication services amounting to $12.7 million to 45 countries worldwide, as revealed in the September 2023 edition of the Export Review magazine by the Centre for Analysis of Economic Reforms & Communications. These export services represented 78% of Azercosmos' total revenues for the reported period. Among the top five countries receiving satellite telecommunication services from Azercosmos in January-August 2023 were the United Kingdom with $3.6 million, Luxembourg with $2.7 million, the UAE with $1.1 million, Germany with $713.2 thousand, and Nigeria with $539.9 thousand, underlining the company's global reach and impact.
Azerbaijan’s Azercosmos Committed to Enhancing National Space Research Capabilities
Azercosmos OJSC, Azerbaijan’s satellite operator, is actively committed to enhancing space research capabilities and contributing to the global space industry's advancement. During a seminar in Baku organized in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Fuad Aslanov, Vice Chairman of Azercosmos, emphasized their dedication to creating an innovative space ecosystem in Azerbaijan. Azercosmos currently manages three satellites and aims to establish a well-connected, advanced, and secure global environment for future generations. By engaging in research, global projects, and partnerships with international stakeholders, Azercosmos seeks to play a significant role in the global space industry while promoting local expertise. The seminar was held a week before Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku, is due to host the International Astronautical Federation’s (IAF) 2023 International Astronautical Congress (IAC).
IAF President Clay Mowry Meets with Azerbaijan’s President Ahead of IAC 2023 in Baku
President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan received Clay Mowry, President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), to discuss the significance of the upcoming 74th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) scheduled to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, from 2 to 6 October 2023. President Aliyev expressed gratitude for Azerbaijan being chosen as the host for this important event and highlighted the extensive preparations made for its success. The congress, expected to draw over 5,000 representatives from 100 countries, is regarded as a crucial platform for acquainting the world with Azerbaijan and forging future space cooperation plans. Clay Mowry commended Azerbaijan's readiness for the congress and noted the event's significance, with approximately 3,600 scientific articles slated for submission. The meeting underscored the exceptional preparedness of Baku city and the convention centre for hosting the prestigious international gathering.
Other News in Brief
Among the other regional space and satellite developments over the past week are:
The UAE and The Netherlands agree to cooperate in a range of economic, scientific, and technological areas including space and satellite issues;
Azerbaijan and Pakistan discuss strengthening cooperation in a number of areas including space;
UAE Space Agency Official Urges Emirati Youth to Take Up Space Careers
Writing in the Khaleej Times, UAE Space Agency official Abdulla Al Shehhi writes that now is the time for Emirati youth to start careers in the national space sector. The global space market is expected to grow significantly, reaching an estimated worth of $1 trillion by 2030, according to a McKinsey report. This expansion is driven by advanced technologies that benefit various sectors, including energy, telecommunications, transportation, and urban development. Additionally, space science is providing critical insights into climate change, with satellites aiding in accurate weather forecasting and supporting agriculture. The United Arab Emirates is actively investing in the space sector, owning over 20 orbital satellites and fostering relationships with international organisations for missions and experiments. The UAE's commitment to space exploration, including its recent historic astronaut missions, is inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in the industry, from data scientists to systems engineers, offering a variety of opportunities in this rapidly growing field.
ICEYE Executive Makes Case for SAR Earth Observation Satellites to Tackle UAE Maritime Pollution
Jamil Kawar, the Head of Missions in the Middle East for Finnish synthetic aperture radar (SAR) Earth observation satellite company ICEYE, writes in Gulf News that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is celebrating World Maritime Day, marking 50 years of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Marpol). This event underscores the significance of shipping safety, maritime security, and marine environment preservation. In the UAE, where the maritime industry contributes substantially to GDP and is critical for water desalination and fisheries, pollution control is paramount. Advanced satellite technology, particularly synthetic aperture radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites, is proving instrumental in this effort. SAR satellites, with their ability to see through clouds and smoke, monitor oil spills, detect small vessel spills, and track maritime activity, provide valuable data for pollution management, maritime safety, and security in the UAE's waters. ICEYE recently signed a deal with UAE companies Yahsat and Bayanat for five ICEYE high-resolution SAR satellites.
Be sure to catch up with space activities in the region in the next edition of Middle East Space Monitor’s space roundup!
Thanks for reading Middle East Space Monitor powered by AzurX! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.