Discover more from Middle East Space Monitor powered by AzurX
Middle East Space Roundup: 6 to 12 August 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 Human Spaceflight Programme Aims for Mission Every Three to Five Years
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi's six-month mission on board the International Space Station (ISS) has shed light on the intricate support system required for space operations. Salem Al Marri, the head of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), emphasised that around 100 people are needed on the ground to support one astronaut in space, particularly during lengthy missions. This support involves managing operations, collaborating with NASA and other international partners, and maintaining a strong team with robust capabilities. The lessons learned from Al Neyadi's mission include the need to maintain a consistent workflow, given the continuous nature of space activities, and to manage and support astronauts while they are in space. The MBRSC is preparing to take on future projects and missions, focusing on building a strong team to ensure astronauts' readiness for upcoming missions. The UAE's ambitious astronaut program aims to develop a national team of astronauts, contributing to scientific exploration and global space missions every three to five years.
Iran Ready to Share Space, Other Scientific Expertise, with Friendly Countries
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has expressed Iran's willingness to share its scientific expertise, including space and satellite expertise, with friendly nations like Sri Lanka. During a meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, Raisi highlighted the growing cooperation between the two countries since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Despite Western sanctions, Raisi emphasised Iran's substantial progress in various fields, including science and technology, and encouraged increased collaboration through the joint commission of economic cooperation. The Sri Lankan foreign minister praised Iran's achievements despite sanctions and acknowledged the positive contributions of Iranian companies in Sri Lanka. He expressed Sri Lanka's interest in expanding cooperation with Iran, particularly in economy, technology, and medical sciences, and highlighted the potential for progress if foreign interference by colonial powers is eliminated.
UAE’s Yahsat Announces Strong H1 2023 Financial Results, Places Order with Airbus for Two GEO Satellites Worth $950 Million
Yahsat, the UAE’s premier satellite communications operator, has announced a 5% increase in its first-half 2023 income, driven by strong performance in its infrastructure business. The company's normalised profit for the six-month period reached $48 million, with normalised adjusted EBITDA rising 3% year-on-year to $125 million. While the revenue during the first half remained stable at $205 million, the company's strong performance was attributed to its infrastructure business, which provides communications capacity to the UAE government, and its data solutions business offering satellite-based broadband services. Yahsat aims for revenue growth of above 5% this year, particularly driven by its managed solutions segment and new business lines, with plans to expand its presence in the Internet of Things sector and continue to invest in satellite procurement programmes. This procurement includes an order placed with Airbus Defence and Space for two geosynchronous communications satellites, Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 for launch in 2027 and 2028 respectively, replacing the Al Yah 1 and Al Yah 2 satellites. The order, including the costs of launch, is believed to be worth $950 million.
UK Space Agency Selects UAE’s MBRSC and AzurX, as well as Bahrain’s NSSA, for International Bilateral Fund Space Projects
The UK Space Agency has unveiled the recipients of the first phase of its £20 million International Bilateral Fund (IBF) investments, aimed at fostering collaborations between UK organisations and counterparts in countries such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and others around the world. This initiative seeks to advance space research and stimulate investments in new technologies. The projects encompass various aspects of the space sector, ranging from using superconductors for spacecraft control to developing new Earth observation applications and methodologies for combating climate change. By partnering with international space agencies and organisations, the UK aims to leverage global expertise, drive investment, and contribute to world-class science and innovation. Two IBF projects have a Middle East focus and include UAE company AzurX partnering with Scottish company AstroAgency Ltd. to collaborate on Earth observation and data analytics with the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and the National Space Science Agency (NSSA) in Bahrain. The other IBF project in the region involves the UK’s University of Leicester, Geospatial Insight Ltd., and CGI IT collaborating with Bahraini company Kanoo and the Kingdom’s NSSA on the miniaturised rapid deployment high-resolution carbon mapping sensors for monitoring green-houses gases (GHG) emission management programmes in the Arab Gulf region These collaborations underscore the UK's commitment to building a diverse and collaborative global space sector for lasting benefits.
Team from American University of Sharjah to Represent UAE in ISS Robotics Challenge
A team from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) has been chosen to represent the UAE in the 4th Kibo Robot Programming Challenge (Kibo-RPC), a collaborative event organised by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA. The announcement was made by UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi from the International Space Station (ISS). Kibo-RPC involves programming free-flying robots Astrobee and Int-Ball inside ISS's Japanese Experiment Module, called Kibo, to solve various problems. This educational program aims to inspire students to develop their skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The UAE team, selected through a rigorous process, will compete against teams from various countries in the final event in September 2023. The UAE's participation highlights its focus on space education and innovation through initiatives like the UAE Astronaut Programme, overseen by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).
Israel’s Gilat Announces Strong Q2 2023 Financial Results
Israel’s Gilat Satellite Networks, a leading satellite networking technology, solutions, and services company, has announced its financial results for the second quarter of 2023. The company reported revenues of $67.6 million, marking a 22% increase compared to the same period in 2022. GAAP operating income was $5.4 million, a significant rise from $1.5 million in Q2 2022. Non-GAAP operating income also saw growth, reaching $6.1 million compared to $2.4 million in the previous year. GAAP net income for the quarter was $4.3 million, or $0.08 earnings per diluted share, compared to $0.5 million, or $0.01 earnings per diluted share in Q2 2022. Non-GAAP net income was $4.9 million, or $0.09 earnings per diluted share, compared to $1.4 million, or $0.03 earnings per diluted share in the same period last year. Adjusted EBITDA reached $9.2 million, up by 74% from $5.3 million in Q2 2022. Additionally, the company raised its 2023 revenue guidance to between $265 million to $285 million, increased its GAAP operating income guidance to between $18 million to $22 million, and raised adjusted EBITDA guidance to between $33 million to $37 million. The CEO of Gilat, Adi Sfadia, highlighted the strong growth in revenue and adjusted EBITDA, especially in the in-flight connectivity (IFC) sector, and mentioned the company's strategic agreements and acquisitions.
Egypt Holds Talks with Kazakhstan, Mali, and Russia on Space Cooperation
Dr. Sherif Sedky, CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA), hosted Ambassador Khairat Lama Sherif of Kazakhstan, Ambassador Sem Boubacar Diallo of Mali, and a delegation from Russia's Rosoboronexport at the EgSA's office in Cairo. The visit by the Kazakh delegation, led by Mr. Khairat Lama Sherif, aimed to explore opportunities for expert knowledge exchange and collaboration between Egypt and Kazakhstan through the Embassy of the State of Kazakhstan in Cairo. Ambassador Sem Diallo and his team also engaged with EgSA representatives to discuss potential mutual cooperation in space science and technology between Egypt and Mali. Additionally, representatives from Rosoboronexport, Russia's state-controlled intermediary for military and dual-use products, technologies, and services, met with the agency to explore potential collaboration prospects with Egypt. Rosoboronexport plays a significant role in advancing Russia's military-technical cooperation policy with foreign nations.
Oman Completes Study Identifying Suitable Space Launch Locations
The Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation in Oman announced the identification of potential space launch sites within the country, marking a significant step in Oman's engagement with space exploration and commerce. The announcement occurred during an event celebrating the participants of the research project titled 'Finding the Best Space Launching Sites in Oman.' The project, which spanned 18 months, pinpointed optimal locations within Oman for establishing spacecraft launch platforms for commercial purposes. The effort, aligned with the goals of Oman's national space programme, considered factors like climate, geology, infrastructure, and economic viability. The event also recognised the contributions of 24 researchers and underscored the importance of the space sector for the country's economic diversification and global positioning in space science and technology.
Iran Acquires Majority Stake in Syrian Telecoms Company, Furthering Information and Satellite Collaboration with Syria
Iran has acquired a majority stake in a Syrian telecommunications company called Wafa, with collaboration between the Iranian and Syrian Ministries of Communications. The Syrian Ministry of Communications and Technology awarded Wafa a contract to become Syria's third telecommunications provider. Investigations suggest that Azim Monzavi, a U.S.-sanctioned member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is a major stakeholder in Wafa. This move is part of Iran's broader strategy to profit from Syrian reconstruction and boost its economy. The joint telecom venture is one of multiple economic projects initiated following Iranian President Raisi's visit to Syria in May 2023, including possible cooperation on building a communications satellite for Syria. Wafa's establishment would allow Iran to expand its influence over Syria's information space, similar to its efforts in Yemen's telecommunications sector.
Saudi Arabia’s SAMI and KACST Reportedly in Talks with China for Moon Mission Space Technology
Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) are reportedly engaged in discussions with Chinese entities, led by the Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), for a comprehensive deal encompassing various aspects of space technology. According to Tactical Report, the talks are at an early stage and involve agreements, memoranda, and strategic cooperation within the space industry. Among the discussed memoranda is an arrangement for CASC to assist Saudi Arabia in establishing its own space technology division, particularly focusing on building a planetary rover to launch to the moon by 2026, aimed at competing with the UAE's space initiatives. These various memoranda and cooperation agreements are projected to be valued in billions of dollars, signifying a growing strategic partnership between China and Saudi Arabia. The discussions also include potential classified aspects related to military communications technologies, involving technology transfer and research and development collaboration with KACST, particularly in the realm of encrypted military communications for naval operations, leveraging 5G technology to enhance battlefield information support capabilities.
New UAE Space Regulations, Including on Space Resource Exploitation
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has introduced new regulations under its 2019 Federal Law on the Regulation of the Space Sector to govern space-related activities in line with its 2030 Space Strategy. These regulations set ground rules for space activities, including the exploitation of space resources. The regulatory regime applies to space activities targeting areas 80 kilometers above sea level and related activities supporting space activities. Specific provisions also address space resource activities involving exploration, exploitation, and use of non-living resources above the Earth's atmosphere. These regulations necessitate authorisation from the UAE Space Agency for all space and space-related activities, including establishment of companies, and various forms of authorisation such as licenses, consents, permits, and trial licenses can be granted based on the type of activity. Compliance with the regulations, provision of compensation guarantees for potential damages, and adherence to security and environmental considerations are essential. The regulations represent the UAE's efforts to create a comprehensive legal framework for its growing space sector.
UAE’s Yahsat Plan’s China Market Entry Through Thuraya Maritime SATCOM Solutions
Yahsat, the leading UAE-based satellite solutions provider, has revealed its strategic plan to strengthen its presence in China and the Asia-Pacific region. The move is part of Yahsat's strategy to diversify and expand internationally, focusing on key growth markets. The company's senior commercial team, led by Chief Commercial Officer Sulaiman Al Ali, held discussions with UAE Ambassador to China Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi to explore opportunities for business expansion in China. Yahsat presented its advanced mobility solutions, particularly MarineStar, aimed at transforming maritime connectivity. Yahsat's commitment to delivering reliable connectivity solutions, as evidenced by its role in locating and rescuing Chinese fishermen at sea, has contributed to its growing partnership with China. Yahsat has rapidly established itself as a major commercial space and satellite entity in the Middle East, serving over 150 countries globally, with the Asia-Pacific region being a key focus due to popular solutions like Thuraya's MarineStar.
Iran Space Agency Earth Observation Studies Detect Decline in Caspian Sea Water Levels
The Iran Space Agency (ISA) has raised concerns about a significant decline in the water level of the Caspian Sea, particularly in its northern part, based on Earth observation studies conducted over the past years. This decline, which has become more pronounced in the last 24 months, has led to coastal advancement due to reduced water levels. While the southern part of the Caspian Sea has experienced relatively little change, ISA's spokesman Hossein Dalirian highlighted the gravity of this issue, emphasising potential environmental challenges that could arise for the surrounding littoral states in the near future. Iranian environmental official Mojtaba Zoljoudi noted that the Caspian Sea's water level has seen an abnormal decline over the past two decades, reaching its lowest point in the past 30 years. This situation is attributed to diminished water flow from the Volga River and other natural factors, affecting not only Iran but also the shared coastlines of countries including Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan.
Türkiye Successfully Launches Sounding Rocket into Space
Türkiye's indigenous probe rocket, developed by Roketsan, has undergone a successful test in the Kirklareli province in the northwest of the country, according to the country’s Defence Industry Agency (SSB). The test launch from Igneada marked a significant step in Türkiye's efforts to advance its space capabilities using advanced engineering technologies, with the rocket reportedly reaching an altitude of 550 kilometres. Minister for Industry and Technology Mehmet Fatih Kacir praised the successful launch and extended congratulations to Roketsan. Established in 1988, Roketsan's mission is to play a significant role in the global defence sector by providing indigenous and reliable rocket and missile solutions. Haluk Gorgun, president of the Turkish Defence Industry Agency, anticipated that Türkiye's space endeavors will experience substantial progress through the application of this rocket technology.
Türkiye’s Industry and Technology Minister Outlines Turkish Lunar Mission Plans
Türkiye's industry and technology minister, Mehmet Fatih Kacır, disclosed the country's plans for a two-stage moon mission utilising domestically developed spacecraft. Speaking at an event in Antalya, Kacır outlined that the programme involves comprehensive research on the moon's surface and will be carried out in two stages. In the initial phase, a domestically built spacecraft will be launched into space by an international launch provider within the next 18 months. The second phase envisions a rocket launch from Turkish territory, with the spacecraft conducting research on the lunar surface, and is expected to conclude by 2030. Kacır emphasised Türkiye's confidence in its infrastructure and workforce, highlighting the successful tests of hybrid rocket engines in production. He suggested that Türkiye could potentially pioneer the widespread use of such rocket engines, opening up new commercial opportunities for the country.
Regional Space Diplomacy
Among the other regional space diplomacy engagements and agreements over the past week are:
Dr. Mohammed Al Aseeri, CEO of Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA), attended the inauguration of Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group’s satellite manufacturing and operations centre in Hong Kong;
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.