Abu Dhabi : Leading regional and international space industry experts gathered in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, at the region's leading platform for space and satellite technology.
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 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, organised by Streamline Marketing Group, came at an exciting time for the region's space industry with many exciting projects on the horizon.
It follows several successful space activities in the UAE such as the launch of DubaiSat-1, the UAE's first satellite and the announcement of major multi-million dollar projects by Abu Dhabi-based companies Aabar Investments and 4C GEOC.
The GSTF conference opened with a global keynote session by Prince Sultan, the first Arab, Muslim and royal to visit space, who delivered the first speech on the strategic role of space technology in regional economic development.
In a session on space policy, regulations and economics, Dr Mohammad Argoun, the former Director of the Egyptian Space Programme, discussed the economic and social benefits for nations of the Middle East embarking on space-based initiatives.
He also presented a detailed outline of the necessary steps and milestones that governments in the region must reach before creating a Pan-Arab space agency.
"The larger dream is the creation of an Arab Space Agency, but there are critical elements of space industry capability that must be in place first," Dr 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."
The same session also saw presentations from Dr Mohammad Tarabzouni from the Space Research Institute at KACST, who discussed the important role space technology plays in disaster management and mitigation.
Dr Ahmad Al Mansouri of the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) presented case studies of MENA-based space programmes as a model for other emerging space nations developing public and private space initiatives.
The final session of the day focused on commercial opportunities related to space. Dr Ramin Khadem, Chairman of Odyssey Moon Limited gave an account of commercial lunar-focused endeavours and made a case for further exploration beyond geostationary orbit and lunar enterprise.
He explained that early lunar missions by the Soviet Union and the US lacked an economic agenda and explored less than one per cent of the moon's surface. Recent plans for lunar exploration, by contrast, are designed to map and discover new areas of the moon.