[Space Ops 2023] UAE’s Remarkable Progress in Space Development
THE 17th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SPACE OPERATIONS (Space Ops 2023), a conference dedicated to satellite operations, was held in Dubai, the iconic city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), from March 6–11, 2011. From Warpspace, CSO Hirokazu Mori went to the conference and gave a poster presentation. In this article, we would like to introduce Space Ops 2023.
Space Ops is a conference attended by governments, private companies, and educational institutions worldwide, but it is more of a technical conference than a business event. In addition to national space agencies, businesses related to satellite operations exhibited in booth sessions, and poster presentations were held every day on the main stage.
The UAE’s Remarkable Development in Space Exploration and National Strategy
Of particular note in Space Ops 2023 is the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the government space agency of Dubai, UAE, established relatively recently in 2006. It was not considered to have a technological advantage compared to other popular national space agencies. However, on July 2020, they launched the “HOPE” explorer by H-2A rocket under the United Arab Emirate’s first Mars exploration mission, “Emirates Mars Mission” (EMM). Last year on December 2022, their lunar rover, “Rashid”, was onboarded along with ispace’s lunar lander. All of these show a remarkable development speed of MBRSC. In March 2023, UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi will become the first Arab to attempt a long-duration (6-month) mission to the ISS, which will coincide with Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. This is also attracting attention in the field of manned space exploration.
The rapid acceleration of MBRSC development is mainly due to the UAE’s national strategy: the UAE is very famous as an oil-producing country, but on the other hand, it has a small population and is surrounded by desert, which limits logistics and makes it difficult for primary industries and manufacturing industries other than oil production to grow. Therefore, from a medium- to long-term perspective, after the oil supply is depleted in the future, the establishment of an industrial system that does not depend on oil is essential. Therefore, the UAE now focuses on high-tech technologies such as IT and space. The funds from oil and the country’s determination to invest in the space industry support ultra-fast development in the space sector.
(Reference link: Report on participation in GITEX GLOBAL 2022, a tech and startup event held in the UAE last October)
Swedish Space Corporation Develops Simulation Software for Satellite-to-Ground Optical Communication
In the optical communications business, Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), a Swedish state-owned company with optical communication ground stations worldwide, made a notable announcement. They are a prominent company in the “ScyLight” program to develop optical communication technology and markets for ESA’s satellites. SSC ordered the construction of an optical communication ground station from Cailabs, a French deep-tech company. At Space Ops 2023, they announced a simulator called “NODES”, which will help SSC to operate the optical ground station. NODES simulates the ability of each optical ground station to communicate with satellites by comparing data from the world’s existing optical ground stations and new optical ground stations to be built by Cailabs and satellites. Although NODES is still in the research phase, and the specific services to be provided by SSC are yet to be determined, it possesses the potential to be an essential tool for Warpspace and other operators of inter-satellite and satellite-to-ground optical communications in the future.
At Space Ops 2023, many of the topics were related to satellite operations in general, and only a few of them were directly related to optical communications. However, it is also true that optical communication operators, which were rarely seen at previous Space Ops conferences, are now being seen, albeit more modestly, than at conferences held in the United States and Europe. In the UAE, which continues to make remarkable progress in space development, the optical communications business for satellites is attracting even more attention.
(Written by Junichiro Nakazawa)