Friday, December 25, 2009

Industry experts outline Pan-Arab space agency

Abu Dhabi (Gulf News) Leading regional and international space industry experts gathered in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, for the region's leading space and satellite technology venue.

The second edition of the Global Space Technology Forum (GSTF) was officially inaugurated by Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

The three day event December 7-9, at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) came at an exciting time for the region's aerospace industries. It followed successful space activities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) like the launch of DubaiSat-1, the UAE's first satellite and the announcement of major projects by Abu Dhabi-based companies Aabar Investments and 4C GEOC.

The conference opened with the keynote address by Prince Sultan, the first Arab, Muslim and royal to orbit Earth. Prince Sultan's speech covered the strategic role of space technology in the economic development of the Saudi Kingdom and the surrounding region.

In a session on space policy, regulation and economics Dr. Mohammad Argoun, former Director of the Egyptian Space Program, discussed economic and social benefits for the nations of the Middle East now embarking on space-based initiatives.

Argoun presented a detailed outline of the needed steps governments in the region should follow before creating a "Pan-Arab space agency."

"The larger dream is the creation of an Arab Space Agency, but critical elements of space industry capability must be in place first," Argoun said.

"We must develop a joint remote-sensing Arab satellite project first, and see the establishment of indigenous private sector space companies to form partnerships with international companies and push for greater development of the region's space industry.

"University support is also important, as it is gaining a foothold in component manufacturing activity and greater regional involvement in satellite design and assembly."

At the same session presentations were made by Mohammad Tarabzouni of the Space Research Institute at KACST, who discussed the important role space technology plays in disaster management and mitigation.

Ahmad Al Mansouri of the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) presented case studies of regionally-based space programs as models for developing public and private space initiatives.

The final session of the day focused on commercial opportunities related to space. Ramin Khadem, Chairman of Odyssey Moon Limited, gave an account of commercial Moon-focused endeavors and made the case for further exploration beyond geostationary orbit. Khadem explained early lunar missions by the former Soviet Union and the United States lacked "an economic agenda," and explored "less than one per cent of the moon's surface."

Recent plans for lunar exploration, by contrast, Khadem said, are designed to map and discover new areas of the moon.

Odyssey Moon, LTD has an official team competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize.

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