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Middle East Space Roundup: 28 May to 3 June 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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Bahrain’s Shura Council Ratifies Artemis Accords
Bahrain’s Shura Council reviewed a report presented by the Kingdom’s Foreign Affairs, Defence, and National Security Committee regarding a draft law that seeks to ratify the Artemis Accords. These accords outline the principles of collaboration in civil exploration and the peaceful utilisation of celestial bodies such as the Moon, Mars, comets, and asteroids. The draft law, attached to Decree (17) of 2022, aims to foster cooperation and investment opportunities in the space sector. The committee's rapporteur, Abdulrahman Jamsheer, highlighted that the bill intends to facilitate the exchange of information and experiences among member states, promote scientific advancements through cooperation with NASA and other participating countries, engage in projects that possess knowledge and economic viability, establish educational and training opportunities in space sciences, and actively contribute to scientific research and space experiments to achieve significant scientific milestones.
UAE Reveals Details on its Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) unveils new details about its upcoming mission to the Asteroid Belt, known as the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt (EMA). The mission is scheduled to launch in March 2028 and will involve the MBR Explorer spacecraft, named after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai. The spacecraft will fly by six asteroids in the main Asteroid Belt before arriving at a seventh asteroid in 2034. The mission aims to create employment opportunities for young Emiratis and contribute to scientific research. The spacecraft will carry instruments from partners in the United States and Italy, and over 50% of the mission's development will be carried out by UAE companies. The mission will study the origin and evolution of water-rich asteroids and contribute to scientific knowledge-sharing.
Azerbaijan Creates Security Zones for Ground-Based Space Infrastructure
A new draft law on space activities has been presented to the Parliament of Azerbaijan, which includes provisions for the creation of security zones with a special legal regime around ground-based space infrastructure. The draft law outlines various components of the ground-based space infrastructure, including ground control centres, telecommunications stations, rocket systems and vehicles, control points, training centres, storage sites, and other necessary infrastructure. The purpose of establishing security zones is to ensure the proper functioning and protection of the ground-based space infrastructure. The bill was adopted in the first reading after discussions and will undergo further review and consideration.
Saudi Astronauts Safely Return to Earth After Eight Day Mission to the International Space Station
Saudi Arabia’s astronauts Ali Al Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi successfully completed their eight-day research mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and safely splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City, Florida. The astronauts, accompanied by American colleagues Peggy Whitson and John Shoffner, were part of the Axiom-2 mission. Barnawi, the first Arab woman in space, and Al Qarni, the first Saudi astronaut in nearly 40 years, made history during their mission. The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying the crew re-entered Earth's atmosphere and deployed parachutes to slow down before splashdown. The crew was retrieved by a SpaceX recovery boat, and Whitson, who holds the U.S. record for most time spent in orbit, expressed her enjoyment of the mission. The astronauts conducted research studies, outreach engagements, and media events during their time on the ISS, contributing valuable data and advancing understanding in various fields.
UAE Company Delivers UAE-Made Components to MBRSC for MBZ-Sat
Strata Manufacturing and the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) have achieved a significant milestone by establishing local satellite component manufacturing of aluminium honeycomb panels. This collaboration marks a groundbreaking achievement in the UAE's space industry, showcasing its commitment to technological advancement and self-sufficiency. Strata Manufacturing will supply locally built components for the MBZ-SAT, a high-accuracy, high-resolution imaging satellite. The satellite will be equipped with premium-grade aluminium honeycomb panels to ensure resilience against extreme temperatures and radiation. The partnership between Strata and MBRSC solidifies the UAE's position as a leading player in the global space sector. The successful delivery of MBZ-SAT components reflects Strata's dedication to maintaining global manufacturing quality standards and the UAE's ambition to become a key player in the space industry. The MBZ-SAT, set to launch in 2024, will revolutionise Earth observation with state-of-the-art AI functions and contribute to stronger collaboration within the space industry in the UAE.
Saudi Arabia’s Aramco Gets Into the Satellite Business
Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil company, is embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) by utilising satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to enable fast and efficient data transmission for its remote sites. Aramco's facilities, often located in remote deserts or at sea, face challenges in transmitting large volumes of data generated by 4IR processes. LEO satellites can transmit data faster and with lower latency, revolutionising operations by allowing remote data relay, predictive maintenance through AI analysis, and the potential for automation. Aramco is investing in the development of LEO satellite technology through partnerships with companies like OneWeb and OQ Technology, aiming to establish new standards and accelerate the adoption of this cutting-edge communication technology. The use of LEO satellite networks holds promise for improving efficiency, safety, and connectivity across Aramco's operations and has broader applications in areas such as emissions reduction and enabling smart cities.
Saudi Arabia to Incorporate Space Topics Into Its National Curriculum
Saudi Arabia's Education Ministry has announced that earth and space sciences will be included in the secondary school curricula starting from the next academic year. This decision follows the recent eight-day mission of two Saudi astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The inclusion of earth and space sciences aims to foster students' positive attitudes towards space science and aligns with international best practices and scientific criteria. The new syllabus will cover topics such as the relationship between the earth, air, space, water, and living organisms, as well as natural phenomena like solar and lunar eclipses and moon phases. The ministry's goal is to prepare globally competitive citizens by upgrading learning outputs and keeping pace with future needs and labor market requirements. In conjunction with this initiative, the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Scholarship Programme plans to launch a preparatory programme for scholarships in space-related majors to support and empower Saudi men and women pursuing higher education in this field. The programme offers various majors such as Astronomy and Space Sciences, Aerospace Engineering, Astrophysics, and more.
Türksat Signs MoU With Ghana’s Crystal TV
Türkiye’s national satellite operator Türksat has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Crystal TV to enhance their partnership and strengthen their presence in the region. Türksat aims to increase its effectiveness through new investments and leverage its technical strength and service quality to benefit Crystal TV. Crystal TV, established in 1994, offers national and international multichannel free-to-air and pay-TV broadcasting services. Currently operating in Ghana and across sub-Saharan Africa, Crystal TV will benefit from Türksat's satellite services provided via the Türksat 4A satellite. The MoU signifies a commitment to collaboration and mutual growth in the broadcasting industry in the region.
UAE Space Agency Launches Geospatial Analytics Platform Hackathon
The UAE Space Agency has launched the Geospatial Analytics Platform Hackathon, which aims to utilise satellite data and develop solutions for land-use changes in the UAE. The platform provides access to space data from advanced earth observation satellites and is part of the UAE government's transformational projects to create a dynamic economy. The Hackathon, aligned with the Year of Sustainability 2023 and preparations for COP28, invites scientists, researchers, startups, and entities to develop innovative and sustainable solutions. The event consists of two phases, with participants submitting prototypes by 9 June 2023 and the top five entries progressing to the final phase. Mentorship sessions and workshops will be conducted, and the winning team will have the opportunity to join the development team for COP28 space projects, contributing to the future of space-related endeavours in the UAE.
EgyptSat Leads Egypt’s Satellite Communications Hardware Manufacturing Scene
Egyptsat is a private satellite communications company based in Egypt that operates its own satellite teleport and very small aperture terminal (VSAT) hubs. The company differentiates itself by developing an ultra-fast, self-deploying VSAT antenna that can find a satellite in less than 10 seconds, enabling quick connectivity for various applications. Egyptsat also manufactures its own satellite news gathering (SNG) antenna, which is used for disaster recovery and broadcasting purposes. The company's in-house solutions, such as the WebX speed accelerator for compressing satellite traffic and an electric vehicle with IoT applications, further distinguish it in the market. Egyptsat primarily targets sectors like oil and gas, mining, military, and telecom, offering services including backhauling and video conferencing. While the company acknowledges the future potential of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communication, it views LEOs as an opportunity rather than a threat and aims to partner with companies in this space to enhance connectivity in Egypt.
UAE Space Agency Announces Opportunities for UAE Startups and SME’s in Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt
The UAE Space Agency has announced the first set of opportunities for startups, private companies, and research centres in the UAE to participate in the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt. This mission, the first of its kind, aims to explore and study seven asteroids in the main Asteroid Belt. The announcement was made during the "Make it in the Emirates" Forum, showcasing the UAE's commitment to promoting its industrial capabilities and boosting the private sector. The UAE Space Agency offers an attractive investment environment and incentives to encourage the growth of local companies and enhance their global market access. The Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt will provide over 30 opportunities in its initial phase, covering hardware development, system-level analysis, ground support equipment, and more. The mission aims to strengthen the Emirati space industry, prioritise contracts and procurement for participating companies, and provide training programmes for young talent. The mission is a key scientific programme, spanning thirteen years, and involves close flybys of seven main belt asteroids beyond Mars.
Armenia Lays Out Future Space Plans
Armenia has expressed its growing interest in space research and technologies following the launch of its first satellite. Ambassador Armen Papikyan, head of the Armenian delegation, highlighted the diverse studies being conducted, including the development of an educational CubeSat and the use of space-based technologies for environmental observation and monitoring. Armenia is working on improving its national legal and regulatory framework in line with international guidelines and plans to adopt its first National Space Strategy by the end of the year. The country emphasises the importance of utilizing space-based information and satellite data for disaster management and climate change mitigation, recognising the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) as a valuable framework for application of space technologies.
NIGCOMSAT Ltd., the Nigerian Communications Satellite Company, has formed a collaborative partnership with Yahclick, a subsidiary of Yahsat, to enhance broadband penetration in Nigeria and across Africa. The managing director of NIGCOMSAT, Engr. Tukur Lawal, and his team welcomed Yahclick's vice-president and director of Sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Kevin Viret, during a visit to NIGCOMSAT's office. Lawal expressed his satisfaction with Yahclick's services and highlighted the potential for a game-changing collaboration between the two satellite companies. Viret acknowledged the warm reception and assured NIGCOMSAT that Yahclick's services could complement their existing reach, covering areas that may be beyond NIGCOMSAT's capabilities. Both teams agreed to collaborate on pricing and billing to ensure a successful partnership. Viret commended NIGCOMSAT for their professionalism and expressed his satisfaction with the meeting.
Lebanese journalist and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dr. Amal Mudallali writes in Arab News that the recent launch of Saudi Arabian astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has highlighted the growing concern over potential conflicts and the need for regulations in space. While the mission itself is celebrated as a significant step for Saudi Arabia and the Arab world, a conference on "Preventing Space War" emphasised the current lack of transparency and governance in space. The increasing congestion of space, the presence of space debris, and the weaponisation of outer space by different nations pose significant challenges. The United States, China, and Russia are among the key players engaged in space competition, with accusations of weaponising space and the potential for conflicts extending beyond Earth. The outdated Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the unregulated involvement of the private sector further complicate the situation. The urgent need for international dialogue, agreements, and updated treaties is emphasised to prevent conflicts and promote peaceful cooperation in space.
AUDIO: A spacecraft with an all-private astronaut team splashed down off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico late on 30 May 2023. Two of the four astronauts on board are from Saudi Arabia, including the first Arab woman to go into orbit. Saudi Arabia is one of nine Middle Eastern countries involved in space exploration right now. Marco Werman finds out what's behind the interest in space around the Arab world from Tim Fernholz, a senior reporter at Quartz and the author of, "Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and the New Space Race."
Sarwat Nasir of UAE English-language newspaper The National writes that the UAE is following the U.S. in supporting its private space sector, which will lead to a significant increase in missions and potentially contribute to the national economy. The country's most ambitious space mission, the MBR Explorer, was unveiled, which will embark on a 13-year journey to the Asteroid Belt to study six asteroids and attempt a landing on a seventh. The mission will involve collaboration with international partners and the involvement of private companies in supplying parts for the spacecraft. The mission not only aims to enhance our understanding of the solar system but also holds potential for asteroid mining, as the belt is rich in valuable minerals and water that could be used for fuel. The UAE Space Agency sees the mission as a stepping stone toward establishing a private space sector and attracting more exploration missions. The legislation in the UAE allows companies to keep the resources they mine in space, but only if they have developed their mining technology in the country. The success of the mission will shape the future of the UAE's space sector and its role in the region.
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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