Space missions to help solve critical issues on energy – Excerpts from Global Aerospace Summit 2018

The space sector will help solve critical issues around renewable energy, transportation, nutrition and water conservation, according to Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and Chairman of UAE Space Agency, who spoke at the second day of the Global Aerospace Summit 2018.

Dr. Al Falasi highlighted that new initiatives such as UAE’s Mars Scientific City and the Hope Probe mission to Mars will allow the UAE to tackle regional and global challenges and bring significant benefits to humanity.

He said: “Space has three important elements that we are well advanced in. Communications is a key aspect and we have been strongly positioned in that area for more than a decade with Thuraya and Yahsat. Remote Sensing has strategic value in terms of resources and human capacity development and the third aspect is space exploration in which we are making great strides in. We are seeing people become more and more engaged in STEM education. We had three generations of the same family apply to the astronaut program – a grandfather, father and son which shows the tremendous excitement and inspiration the space sector is having.”

“Space is a message of hope for our region. We live in a tough region but if we focus on tolerance and science we will make progress. There are some key interdisciplinary aspects of space we need to develop which includes a focus on renewable energy, solar panels, agriculture and psychology. Sustainability is critical and we have developed successful projects here, for example 100% of water is recycled at Masdar. Water conservation is vital for space missions in which it currently costs 10,000 USD to send 1 litre of water into space. We need to find new and cost effective ways and our space projects are helping to make that happen. UAE’s Mars Scientific City replicates conditions of Mars and will solve issues around water, energy and food and help with our human capacity development.”

Arab space industry leaders also convened during a panel session to discuss ways of facilitating collaboration between Middle East nations in the space sector. They described the tangible benefits they have witnessed from the development of their national space capabilities and related research and scientific facilities.

Dr. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of UAE Space Agency, moderated the session and explained how space is a great model for international and regional cooperation. He recalled how Arab scholars contributed significantly to the advancement of humanity and space, referencing the fact that two thirds of the stars that can be seen by the naked eye have Arab or Islamic names.

Prof. Ayman El Dessouki from Egypt said that the formation of a space agency is underway and they are working to develop human capital and research capabilities. H.E. Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Khalifa Alamer from Bahrain said that his nation is in the starting phase of developing a space program but has strong support from national leadership. He said: “When we received our mandate to begin a space program we began with the objective of developing our own satellite.”

Dr. Abdelwahab Chikourche from Algeria spoke about how his government created the Algerian Space Agency in 2002 and developed a policy and programme. He said they have a clear scope of activities until 2020. Back in 2006 they began the development of high resolution remote sensing system and are developing Ku and Ka band telecommunications satellites to address expanding broadcast and communication needs. He added: “Our aim is to develop specific engineering capacities through our space research and development projects.”

Dr. Driss Elhadani of Morocco explained how their space sector is providing numerous industries with valuable information and data. He said Morocco launched its first micro satellite in 2001, which enabled the development of local capacities. The Royal Center for Research and Space Studies was created to manage the project and handle all future space activities. In November 2017, they launched their first earth observation satellite.

The Arab space leaders agreed on the need for greater collaboration and cooperation to help bring the region closer together and create partnerships for the future.

Mubadala and Airbus Venture panelists at the investment head-to-head informed audiences on trends to stimulate aerospace investment, particularly through focusing on a range of related areas – from autonomous and electric transport systems to material design and cyber security.

Francois Auque, Airbus Ventures commented: “We invest in all areas linked to autonomous vehicles, because we are interested in the applications for space and we also invest in electrification, which is really important for aerospace and transport. Material design and cyber security are also important for the sector and are a focus of our investments.

Ibrahim Ajami, Mubadala Investment Company added: “Our vision fund has already invested around 40 billion dollars, with a portfolio of 32 companies around the world. Our question is, how do we leverage these companies coming here to encourage and inspire the people here to set up their own businesses. We want to build an ecosystem – what we call the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Tech Hub – to inspire local companies and empower customers. You can’t have development without investment and we can’t just bring in tech companies from around the world – we have to invest in tech companies that are here in the UAE.

During the morning session, Jim Chilton, senior vice president, Boeing Defence, Space & Security spoke about how business models are changing in space and how there’s lots more money available to the industry today and the need to use it wisely. He commented that the sector needs to increase the market size as launch ventures need more destinations than just the International Space Station (ISS).

Stephen Eisele, Vice President, Virgin Orbit explained his company’s ambitions to be the infrastructure provider for Moon and Mars missions in the future. He said: “We want to be providing sub-orbital flights regularly in the future. Mega constellations will create a whole new era of data gathering and sharing and we need to be ready for that change.”

Michael Callari from Blue Origin set out the bold ambition and vision of having millions of people living and working in space. He said that it was his company’s goal to provide the infrastructure to do that. Blue Origin are planning to launch New Shepard and New Glenn launch vehicles.

Callari commented: “With regards to deep space and lunar missions – we want to be doing these on a regular basis within the next 10 years. Selling our engines to our competitors is also part of our plans as long as it helps us achieve our vision and helps the industry develop.”

During the session, Brenda Paauwe-Navori, Bigelowe Operations commented: “We are currently in production and on track to be launch ready by 2021. We believe that space habitation modules will become the norm in the near future. Space tourism is not really our model. Our model is to enable governments and commercial operations to have a destination in space so they can send astronauts up and have workstations available.” — SG