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Middle East Space Roundup: 3 to 9 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 Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi Returns to Earth After Six-Month ISS Mission
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi has successfully completed a historic six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He returned to Earth aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, which splashed down off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. This mission marked the UAE's second human spaceflight and the Arab world's first extended mission, including the first-ever spacewalk by an Arab astronaut. Al Neyadi conducted over 200 science experiments during his time on the ISS, documented Earth from space, and engaged with students in the UAE through the "A Call from Space" outreach initiative. While back on Earth, he will continue working on science investigations, report on his mission's findings, undergo medical tests to assess his health after prolonged microgravity exposure, and participate in a recovery programme to readapt to gravity. The UAE has ambitious plans for its astronaut programme, aiming to send astronauts to space every two to three years and even aspiring to send astronauts to the Moon in the future.
Türkiye's First Astronaut Speaks About His Training and Importance of Mission to Country
Alper Gezeravci, Türkiye's first prospective ‘space traveler’, shared his enthusiasm for his upcoming mission, which is set to include scientific experiments during his 14-day journey to low-Earth orbit. Gezeravci, a pilot in the Turkish Air Force, explained that his training began in the U.S. in 2023, and he has also undergone training in Japan and Germany as part of his preparations. He expressed his pride in being part of a mission that Türkiye's citizens can take ownership of and be proud of, emphasising the significance of inspiring young generations to pursue their dreams, including those that extend beyond Earth's atmosphere. Gezeravci and his fellow astronaut Tuva Cihangir Atasever were selected as Türkiye's first space travelers during the TEKNOFEST event in 2023. The Turkish Space Agency, established in 2018, is set to launch him into space at the end of 2023, marking a significant milestone for Türkiye's space programme.
UAE Space Programme Surpasses $6 Billion in Investment
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has demonstrated significant achievements in the space economy sector, surpassing an investment of AED 22 billion (approximately $6 billion) since the mid-2010s. This investment spans various space-related areas, including satellite communications systems, Earth observation, and space exploration. The UAE views the space economy as a crucial element in its long-term strategy for economic diversification and global competitiveness. With the global space sector expected to exceed a trillion dollars by 2040, the UAE is positioning itself as a regional hub for space services, events, and educational programmes. In 2020, contractual agreements for space services and applications in the UAE increased by 40 percent, reflecting the country's rapid growth in this sector, encompassing ten areas, such as space mining, tourism, and manufacturing. The UAE has seen substantial support from both the public and private sectors, with investments exceeding $5.4 billion in the country's space programme, and it continues to pursue ambitious space missions, as recently demonstrated by UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi’s successful six-month mission on board the International Space Station (ISS).
Israel’s SatixFy Satellite Communications Company Announces H1 2023 Financial Results
Israel’s SatixFy Communications Ltd. has announced its consolidated financial results for the first half of 2023, with total revenues reaching $5.7 million, marking a 71% increase compared to the same period in 2022. The growth in revenue was attributed to increased revenues from development services and preproduction, as well as product sales, driven by new projects initiated in 2023 and the delivery of delayed orders from 2022. Despite this revenue increase, gross profit margin decreased from 54% to 41% due to rising project costs and higher sales of products with lower profitability. Operating loss for the first half of 2023 was $16.6 million, compared to $12.5 million in 2022. The company emphasized its strategic decision to focus on developing chipsets supporting multi-beam digital antennas and on-board processing, which led to a recent $60 million agreement with MDA, further strengthening its position in the LEO satellite market.
Israel’s ImageSat International Partners with Germany’s UP42 to Provide Geospatial Products
UP42, a prominent geospatial developer platform and marketplace in Germany, has partnered with Israel’s ImageSat International (ISI) to provide direct access to ISI’s EROS NG™ satellite constellation via UP42. This collaboration offers organisations in vital sectors such as urban mapping, environmental monitoring, agriculture, infrastructure development, and disaster response easier and quicker access to 30 cm resolution optical imagery products. The EROS NG™ constellation includes ImageSat International's four Earth Observation satellites, and the direct accessibility of this data through UP42 will empower organisations to make informed decisions by closely monitoring specific areas of interest and tracking changes over time. This partnership expands UP42's marketplace, which already hosts over 150 geospatial data and analytics products from more than 70 leading providers worldwide.
Israel’s Orbit Communications Systems Unveils New Naval SATCOM Terminal at DSEI 2023
Israel’s Orbit Communications Systems Ltd. is set to unveil its Multi-Purpose Terminals (MPT) for satellite communications at DSEI 2023, catering to unmanned surface vehicles and small vessels. These compact systems are designed for installation on small ships, providing reliable and high-speed broadband communication even in challenging sea conditions. Featuring low-size, weight, and power (SWaP) characteristics, these user terminals deliver over 126 Mbps forward link and up to 29 Mbps return link speeds while maintaining uninterrupted connectivity, even during strong transmission from the ship’s sensor systems. The terminals meet industry standards and are compatible with military satellite systems, making them suitable for Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance (ISR) naval applications and various military needs.
Iran Plans to Hold Public Tender for First Navigation Satellite
The Iranian Space Research Centre (ISRC) is planning to hold a public tender for the construction and launch of its first positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) satellite, Research Satellite-1, to support the private sector's involvement in space endeavours. This announcement comes shortly after the Iranian Space Agency's receipt of the domestically produced remote sensing satellite, Tolou'-3, which has successfully passed all required tests. Tolou'-3, manufactured by Iran Electronics Industries, offers a 5-metre resolution in panchromatic mode and a 10-metre resolution in multispectral mode for imaging. The satellite, weighing over 100 kilograms, is set to be placed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for various applications, including agriculture, water resource management, and disaster response, marking an important addition to Iran's annual satellite launch schedule.
Bazoomq Prepares Armenia’s First Indigenously-Built CubeSat for Launch
Armenia is preparing to launch its first indigenous CubeSat named Hayasat-1, scheduled for a November 2023 launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Developed by the non-profit space research lab Bazoomq in Yerevan, this educational satellite project aims to build capabilities and skills for space research and startups within Armenia. Hayasat-1, in collaboration with the Centre for Scientific Innovation and Education (CSIE), will weigh approximately one-kilogram and orbit the Earth every 90 minutes. While the satellite does not have specific operational applications like optical or communication systems, its primary purpose is educational, allowing Armenia to gain valuable experience and knowledge for future, more advanced satellite endeavours.
Egyptian Space Agency Hosts Visit by Philippine Space Agency
Dr. Jay Jean Perez, Deputy Director General of Space Science and Technology at the Philippine Space Agency, led a delegation on a visit to the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA), where they were hosted by Dr. Sherif Sedky, Executive Director of EgSA. The primary aim of the visit was to facilitate collaboration between the two countries in the fields of space exploration and technology. The delegation had the opportunity to tour EgSA's facilities, including assembly and integration centres and satellite testing facilities. Areas of potential collaboration discussed encompassed space science technology, data science, surveying, Earth observation, image processing, and their applications across various sectors to promote sustainable development. This visit underscores the commitment of Egypt and the Philippines to advancing their scientific and technological growth within the realm of space exploration and development.
UAE Space Agency Researchers Gather Data on Justitia Asteroid in Preparation for Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt
Researchers from the UAE Space Agency have obtained new data about the enigmatic asteroid named Justitia, with hopes of eventually landing a spacecraft on it in 2034 using the MBR Explorer spacecraft. During a phenomenon known as occultation, Justitia passed in front of a star in Wyoming, United States, allowing scientists to capture data about its size, orbit, and albedo. The observations will aid in planning a route to the asteroid and the eventual landing. The MBR Explorer mission, set to launch in 2028, will involve flybys of six other asteroids in the Asteroid Belt located between Mars and Jupiter. The study of these asteroids is of great interest to scientists as they contain remnants of the solar system and could provide insights into planetary formation. Additionally, the mission could lay the foundation for future asteroid resource extraction, given the belt's reported abundance of minerals. Private companies, both local and international, will play a significant role in supplying components for the spacecraft, potentially paving the way for a burgeoning private space sector in the UAE.
Middle East Space Features at the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS)
The 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) saw participation from Middle East enterprises keen on collaborating with China's high-tech industries to drive technological advancements in their own countries. Diplomatic envoys and companies from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern countries used the event to present their favourable foreign investment policies, business conditions, and industrial trends. Many Middle Eastern countries are looking to diversify their economies beyond oil and gas resources, focusing on areas like manufacturing, digital economy, biomedicine, new materials, space technologies, and tourism. Yahsat, the premier satellite communications company in the UAE, exhibited at CIFTIS as part of its intention to market its services in China. Another example of Chinese space activities in the region is the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation's (CASC) satellite assembly and test centre project in Egypt which is helping the Middle East gain satellite assembly capabilities.
Regional Space Diplomacy
Among the other regional space diplomacy engagements and agreements over the past week are:
Israel’s Trade Commissioner to Australia promotes Israeli-Australian space cooperation and commercial space ties;
A delegation from the European Space Agency (ESA) visited the UAE Space Agency to discuss closer collaboration on space research and technology and to learn about the UAE’s Mission to the Asteroid Belt.
Recommended Reading - Commentators Reflect on Sultan Al Neyadi’s Six-Month Mission On Board the International Space Station:
In Gulf News, Sadiq Shaban writes that Sultan Al Neyadi, the Emirati astronaut, successfully completed his groundbreaking six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This mission, initiated on 3 March 2023, marked a historic chapter in the UAE's growing involvement in space exploration. During his tenure on the ISS, Al Neyadi conducted over 200 experiments and achieved the distinction of being the first Arab astronaut to perform a spacewalk. His mission underscores the UAE's dedication to space science and exploration, as the country has committed approximately $10 billion to space projects as part of its 10-year plan. Beyond this mission, the UAE is set to explore the Asteroid Belt within the solar system with its Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt in 2028, emphasising its commitment to scientific research and innovation in space science.
Writing in The National, Dr. Dimitra Atri of NYU Abu Dhabi says that Sultan Al Neyadi, the Emirati astronaut, has completed his extraordinary six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has not only made history but also opened new frontiers in space exploration. His mission, which began on 3 March 2023 and culminated on 4 September 2023, saw him conduct over 200 experiments and become the first Arab astronaut to perform a spacewalk. Beyond these achievements, his mission has provided invaluable data about the human body's response to extended space travel, including the effects of microgravity on the heart, the crystallization of proteins for drug development, and the lengthening of telomeres potentially linked to slowing the aging process. His outreach efforts, like "a call from space," have inspired future scientists and engineers. The UAE's investment in space science positions it as a pioneer in the Arab world, with a promising future in space exploration and resource utilisation, aligning with the broader vision of sustainable space exploration and international cooperation.
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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