Overview of the Morocco Space Industry

In a dark room without the sophisticated computer models in Morocco, a 25-year-old doctoral student, Khalid Barkaoui distilled data captured by the TRAPPIST-North Telescope at the Oukaimeden Observatory that helped to make available more data of three of the then seven previously unidentified planets.

In February 2017, NASA announced the discovery of seven rocky planets orbiting a single dwarf stat called TRAPPIST-1, the first known grouping of its kind outside our solar system. But not a lot of people know the role played by thirty scientists including Barkaoui and his mentor, Zouhair Benkhaldoun who contributed to an article in Nature chronicling the science behind the discovery.

Out of this world: Khalid Barkaoui in front of the TRAPPIST-North telescope in Morocco.

Earlier in 2014, ESA completed work on a closed life-support system that processes waste and delivers fresh oxygen, food and water to astronauts. One of the discoveries is how to build and control organic and ceramic membranes with holes just one ten-thousandth of a millimetre across – 700 times thinner than a strand of human hair. These tiny pores can filter out unwanted compounds in water, in particular nitrate.

With help from a UNESCO partnership, the method is now treating groundwater for University of Kenitra in Morocco.

The Moroccan Facility (Source: ESA)

In November 2017, the North African country successfully launched an earth observation satellite. Dubbed “Mohammed VI-A”, the satellite was launched by Arianesspace’s Vega rocket from the French Guyana Space centre.

The earth observation satellite built for the Kingdom of Morocco by Thales Alenia space and Airbus is being used for mapping and land surveying activities, regional development, agricultural monitoring, the prevention and monitoring of natural disasters, monitoring changes in the environment and desertification, as well as border and coastal surveillance.

In a statement released by the consortium, the space imagery operated from Morocco is playing a key role in the implementation of national strategies for the socio-economic development of the country especially on those relating to the agricultural sector—an important part of the Moroccan economy.

The development makes Morocco an emerging space power that Algerian and Spanish media have raised questions about its regional implications. Also, there are reports that Morocco’s launch of its Mohammed 6-A satellite last November could accelerate Spain’s work on its SeoSat/Ingenio optical Earth-observation satellite, which is expected to launch in late 2019 or early 2020.

Morocco launched the country’s first microsatellite in 2001 when it’s Maroc-TUBSAT (Zarkae Al Yamama), a joint undertaking between the country’s Royal Centre for Remote Sensing and the German Technical University of Berlin, hitched a ride on a Zenit-2 rocket whose primary payload was the Russian Meteor-3M satellite. Morocco is expected to launch Mohammed 6-B, the second in a pair of Earth-observation satellites, in 2018

With this second satellite with similar specs expected to be launched soon, it seems Morocco is serious about joining the elite club of space technologies in Africa