Tangible cooperation and projects between states encouraged
Arab states led by the UAE are keen to expand their role in the emerging space industry whether through the manufacture of satellite systems and other spacecraft or by utilising data generated by space-based systems to boost sectors ranging from agriculture to technology.
Apart from the UAE, Egypt, Algeria and Bahrain each has launched a space programme in recent years. These programmes entail the formulation of a comprehensive policy, development of a national strategy as well as actual capacity building in terms of human resources.
For instance, Algerias space program has allowed its universities to produce dozens of engineers specialising in space-related disciplines within a few years. These courses were developed in cooperation with the United Nations space training and development programme.
Apart from financing, our main challenge is convincing the public that the space activity can be useful in everyday life and can solve issues related to agriculture or water supply, explains Azzedine Oussedik, director general of the Algerian Space Agency.
It is understood that space-based systems can capture, verify and update data required in activities like agricultural surveys more quickly, safely and cost-effectively compared to deploying a significant number of staff to undertake these jobs.
The UAE is leading the regions initiatives into research leading into production and manufacture of space equipment and technologies.
The UAE Space Agency signed on 31 January a memorandum of understanding with the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. The agreement defines the framework for collaboration and the exchange of information and expertise in the fields of space science, research, technology, remote sensing and navigation. It is also expected to encourage collaboration between the two countries on space policy, law, regulation, and personnel training for space activities.
Regionally, the four Arab countries agreed that they must start working on tangible projects to help communicate their value to the public and address the main obstacle related to financing.
We should go beyond talking about cooperation and move into actual collaborative projects, Salem Human al-Marri, deputy director general for Scientific and Technical Affairs of Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, tells the Global Space Congress in Abu Dhabi on 1 February.
The congress was dominated by academics, government regulators and defense suppliers as such as Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Apart from the industrial applications and scientific breakthroughs that could arise from budget-intensive space programmes, most governments led by the US want to establish a strong position in space exploration mainly for security and defence purposes.
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