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Middle East Space Roundup: 27 August to 2 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:
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UAE Entry Into BRICS Expected to Benefit Space Industry, Other Sectors
The UAE's entry into the BRICS group is expected to have a significant positive impact on various sectors of its economy including trade, investment, space, medicine, finance, and technology. Analysts suggest that joining BRICS may increase trade between member countries in their own currencies, potentially reducing dependence on the U.S. dollar. While reducing reliance on petrodollars might take time, the inclusion of UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran in BRICS, alongside other major oil producers, is set to expand the group's influence in global economics and politics. This move is projected to have various benefits for the UAE, including the enhancement of technology infrastructure, improvements in logistics and supply chains through artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), an increase in foreign direct investment, and potential growth in the real estate market, driven by cross-border transactions and regulatory enhancements within the consortium.
Metavisionaries to Offer Virtual Reality Space Training for Saudi Youth
Saudi Arabia’s Bab Rizq Jameel Company, backed by Community Jameel Saudi Foundation, has partnered with Metavisionaries, an organisation focusing on advanced skills for the space and technology sectors, to offer training programs to Saudi youth. As part of Community Jameel Saudi's efforts to expand in the field of "Supporting Science and Technology," this collaboration will sponsor educational courses for 100 participants aged 18 to 30. The immersive training camp, led by the Metavisionaries Academy, will encompass comprehensive courses over two weeks, covering various space sciences topics such as data science, astrobiology, and satellite technology. This initiative aligns with Vision 2030's goal of advancing digital economy and education in Saudi Arabia, fostering critical thinking and innovation in the field of space exploration, and contributing to the Kingdom's knowledge-based economy.
Saudi Arabia’s CST Invites Public Input on Space Data Regulations
Saudi Arabia’s Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) has extended an invitation to the public for input on the Space Data Regulations Platform and Application Document, designed to establish a regulatory framework for the space sector and attract investments aimed at GDP growth. Through these documents, entities looking to create a space data marketplace and provide services related to satellite images, remote sensing data, orbital data, weather data, and astronomy data can gain insight into the licensing process. The platform serves as a bridge between satellite operators, technical solution developers, researchers, and those seeking space data-based solutions. CST has stressed that the Application Document outlines requirements for obtaining a permit, user rights, and data security obligations to ensure transparency. All stakeholders are encouraged to submit their feedback by 12 September 2023, through the CST website.
UAE Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi Prepares to Return to Earth after Six-Month Mission
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, currently on the longest-ever Arab space mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), is set to conclude his successful six-month mission and return to Earth on 3 September 2023. The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, carrying Crew-6 including Al Neyadi, is scheduled to detach from the ISS on 2 September 2023 and make a splashdown off the coast of Florida, United States. During his time aboard the ISS, Al Neyadi conducted over 200 scientific experiments, including a host-pathogen study to investigate how astronauts' immune systems interact with microbial pathogens in the space environment. This study aimed to shed light on the impact of stress hormones and the reactivation of latent viruses on astronauts' immune systems. The research could have implications for understanding the immune system's response to pathogens in both space and on Earth.
Moroccan Official Appointed Senior Advisor at UNOOSA
Dr. Driss El Hadani, the Director-General of Morocco's Centre Royal de Télédétection Spatiale (CRTS), has been appointed as a senior advisor at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). In this role, under the supervision of the Director of the Office, Dr. El Hadani will provide expert advice and research support for space science and education activities and programs implemented by UNOOSA. He will manage the Office's activities related to the United Nations-affiliated regional centers for space science and technology education and will oversee, support, and promote activities undertaken by these centers. With 32 years of experience in the space sector, Dr. El Hadani has significantly contributed to the growth of CRTS and has played a crucial role in consolidating international cooperation relations. He has transformed CRTS into a leading institution in Africa and the Middle East, implemented space data infrastructure, and trained thousands of executives and academics on space and remote sensing techniques. Dr. El Hadani's extensive expertise will contribute to advancing space science and education initiatives globally.
Armenia and India Expanding Space Collaboration
Armenia and India are rapidly expanding their bilateral ties, with a focus on military hardware and space industry collaboration. Armenian Security Council chief Armen Grigoryan visited New Delhi for discussions with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, where they highlighted the development of bilateral relations and explored potential joint projects in the space industry, particularly following the success of India's Chandrayaan-3 mission. These discussions come in the context of the ongoing military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenia has sought to strengthen its strategic partnership with India, receiving military equipment such as Swathi Weapon Locating Radars and showing interest in various Indian defence systems, including the BrahMos missile. Additionally, both countries are working on trade enhancement through the International North-South Transport Corridor, further solidifying their bilateral cooperation.
New Details Emerge on Qatar’s Military Space Plans
Qatar's Ministry of State for Defence Affairs has launched a comprehensive five-year action plan to strengthen its advanced military technologies, with a particular emphasis on space-based capabilities, according to Tactical Report. A new holding company is expected to be established to oversee Qatar's satellite initiatives, focusing on space-based defense and future fighter technologies. Foreign consultants will play a crucial role in training Qatari engineers for various projects, aiming to enhance the country's knowledge base in critical technological areas. The initiative aims to increase Qatar's ownership of crucial capabilities, ensuring knowledge localisation and bolstering air defences against emerging hypersonic threats. This includes plans to establish a space-based sensor layer for early warning and missile launch detection. While Qatar currently sources geospatial intelligence from allied nations, it's anticipated that the country will pursue its own Earth observation satellite capabilities, with U.S. and European companies likely to be involved due to Qatar's Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status.
Israel’s SatixFy to Sell UK Satellite Platform Subsidiary to Canada’s MDA
Israel’s satellite communications equipment manufacturer SatixFy has revealed its intention to sell its satellite payload subsidiary to MDA, a Canadian space hardware specialist, as part of a strategic transaction worth $60 million. MDA will purchase SatixFy Space Systems UK Ltd., a British company specialising in satellite payload systems and subsystems, including digital beam-forming antennas and onboard processors. This move aligns with MDA's recent contract wins, including a $1.6 billion deal to build low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for Telesat and a contract to build third-generation LEO satellites for Globalstar. The acquisition of SatixFy's digital payload division will enable MDA to enhance its next-generation satellite capabilities and cater to the growing demand in the LEO satellite communication market. The deal is set to be finalised before the end of the year, pending regulatory and shareholder approvals.
Anonymous Sudan Hacks X to Force Elon Musk to Provide Starlink Satellite Service in Wartorn Sudan
The hacking group Anonymous Sudan executed a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on X, formerly known as Twitter, causing the platform to go offline for over two hours in numerous countries. The hackers aimed to pressure Elon Musk into launching his Starlink satellite internet service in Sudan. The group posted messages on Telegram urging Musk to "Open Starlink in Sudan." Anonymous Sudan claims to be acting to benefit Sudan and Islam, and they view their actions as a way to raise awareness about the civil war in Sudan and the country's poor internet connectivity due to the conflict. While many in the cybersecurity world suspect the group to be linked to Russian cyber-military activities, Anonymous Sudan provided evidence to the BBC indicating that they are located in Sudan. The group's spokesperson, Crush, stated that their goal is to demonstrate Sudanese capabilities, despite limited resources, and they have targeted various organisations and government web services globally.
UAE, Saudi Arabia Look to Singapore for Space Policy Lessons
National security delegations from the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been visiting Singapore to learn from the country's integrated approach to space strategy planning, which involves close collaboration between military research and the local industrial ecosystem. Singapore's model, facilitated by the Office for Space Technology & Industry (OSTI) as the national space agency, emphasises reducing dependence on foreign partners. The TeLEOS-2 radar satellite and the DS-SAR satellite, both developed by ST Engineering Satellite Systems (SatSys) and the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), showcase this integrated approach. Singapore focuses on radar observation due to regional cloud cover conditions. The country engages in foreign partnerships while enhancing its industrial capacity and operational capabilities in space technology.
Iran’s Toloo-3 Earth Observation Satellite Ready for Launch
Iran has successfully completed the testing phase of its domestically developed Toloo-3 Earth observation satellite, and it has been handed over to the Iran Space Agency. The satellite, unveiled in February 2023, is equipped with the capability to capture black and white images with a spatial resolution of five meters, along with a 10-meter resolution in colour mode. The unveiling event was attended by Iran's Information and Communications Technology Minister and the head of the Iranian Space Agency.
Regional Space Diplomacy
Among the other regional space diplomacy engagements and agreements over the past week are:
UAE’s Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi, met with South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and suggested the two countries cooperate on satellite communications;
The U.S. Embassy in Rabat, Morocco, hosts first space camp in the Kingdom.
The Oxford Business Group, writing in OilPrice.com, explains how Gulf countries are aggressively pursuing the development of their domestic space industries, leveraging emerging technologies and capitalising on the commercial potential of space exploration. Saudi Arabia transformed its Saudi Space Commission into the Saudi Space Agency (SSA) in June 2023, following the successful launch of its first crewed space mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The UAE, with its National Space Strategy 2030, has opened research centers, established space laws, and launched the Hope Probe to Mars. These efforts require significant upfront investments but align with the region's long-term economic diversification strategies. The space sector development spans aerospace engineering, satellite manufacturing, and advanced R&D, with notable initiatives including Saudi Arabia's low-cost airline Riyadh Air, the UAE's imaging satellites for water and power infrastructure maintenance, and plans for spacecraft to explore the solar system's Asteroid Belt. Gulf countries are also exploring international partnerships, with China's interest in collaborations for space utilisation, remote sensing, and communications satellites. The growth of space activities in the Gulf aligns with the Fourth Industrial Revolution's technological advances, enhancing the capabilities of smaller satellites and reducing launch costs, and holds significant economic, technological, and geopolitical implications for the region's future.
India’s Chandrayaan-3 Lunar Success Bolsters Space Cooperation with Middle East
Anuttama Banerji, writing in The Diplomat, writes that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rise to power in 2014, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has become a focal point of India's engagement, with a particular focus on science and technology, notably space collaboration. With many Middle Eastern countries launching their own space programmes, India's success in this domain has positioned it as a reliable partner for these states. Collaborations are not solely based on energy security but also encompass non-traditional security sectors, particularly space. Partnerships have been forged with UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Israel, Kuwait, and Tunisia, covering satellite launches, space science, and technology sharing. India's cost-effective yet successful space programme has garnered interest from MENA countries seeking to tap into India's expertise. The expansion of these ties has the potential to not only bolster India's space prowess but also facilitate wider cooperation in space exploration and security endeavours.
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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