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Global Space Congress discusses space technology for sustainable development

Experts working in space technology gathered at the Global Space Congress to find ways to apply space technology to impact earth-based industries to drive sustainable social and economic growth globally.
A session in progress at the Global Space Congress.

The space sector’s contribution to sustainable social and economic growth dominated discussions at the Global Space Congress. HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, attended the event, which welcomed a global audience of more than 1,000 space experts, including space agency leaders, C-suite space and aerospace executives, government ministers, top researchers and academics.

Maitha Al Romaithi, the Government Communications Officer for the UAE Space Agency welcomed the world’s space leaders to Abu Dhabi and outlined the objectives of the Congress which are to increase regional and international collaboration, showcase innovative space technologies, and develop solutions to the industry’s challenges.

HE Dr Eng Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, delivered a keynote address, touching upon the importance of the New Space sector, highlighting the UAE’s recent achievements in the development of its space sector, and encouraging attendees to come together to exchange knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the industry and humanity.

Following His Excellency’s keynote address, the opening panel discussion of the Global Space Congress kicked-off with a focus on the application of space technology to wider, earth-based industries. The session was moderated by the space journalist Sarah Cruddas.

During the session, Dr Khaled Al Hashmi shared that the UAE space investment strategy focuses on technologies which can be utilised within both the space sector and other earth-based industries. Dr Charles Elachi, drawing on his extensive experience of working at NASA, agreed with this sentiment, stating that given the global challenges which humans on earth face, space-based technologies such as automated mining systems used on Mars could have significant future applications for the Earth’s mining sector. Luca Del Monte, from ESA, noted the importance of opportunities for the private sector to reap the benefits of the space race, and allow developments made in the space sector to push the frontiers of the economy.

In addition, Gregoire Bourban emphasised that technology transfer was a two-way channel, allowing earth-based technology to be applied in the space sector. Amer Al Sayegh Al Ghafri, speaking on behalf of the MBRSC, reflected this point, stating that the UAE was seeking to develop artificial intelligence for earth-based industries before applying the technology to the space sector. Through such a symbiotic approach to the space sector, the UAE seeks to promote the private sector’s involvement within the space industry.

Following the opening session, the second panel discussion of the day began with a focus on developing a space economy and ecosystem for the socio-economic benefit of all. The panel was moderated by Jeff Matthews, Specialist Leader at Deloitte.

The panellists discussed ways to leverage the economic potential of the space sector, highlighting the importance of space policies and space investment. Arfan Chaudhry emphasized the role of governments in developing space economy, as well as the importance of regulation and legislation in maximising the socio-economic benefits of space. Speaking about the UAE Space Agency’s policy, Professor Anu Ojha applauded the UAE policy’s focus on inspiring the next generation, as the importance of educating young people, public engagement, and skills development cannot be understated. Dan Dumbacher agreed with Ojha adding that he believes that the next generation is ready to take on the challenges in the space industry

Meanwhile, Dr Minoo Rathnasabapathy shed light on the significance of developing a global infrastructure to leverage the unique strengths of the space sector. Laurent Jaffart discussed how the space economy has continued to grow and how space exploration and space investment have the potential to benefit everyone on Earth. Dr Luigi Scatteia concluded the discussion by referring to the Emirates Mars Mission, and how the project has already had a positive impact in terms of knowledge creation and transforming the UAE into a knowledge-based society.

The second panel discussion was followed by a brief networking break prior to the commencement of the third session, which focused on building a global space programme. The panel was moderated by the Executive Chairman of Surrey Satellite Technologies, Sir Martin Sweeting.

The discussion focused on the role of government entities in the space sector, and their role in the age of New Space. Piero Bunuvinti emphasised the importance of the role of space agencies to be able to maintain a scientific focus on space exploration, particularly on tackling topics related to the biological evolution of the universe. Sylvain Laporte highlighted the increasing maturation of the modern space sector, and how government agencies have to adapt globally to the presence of private entities within the industry. Sergey Krilalev added that government agencies should be at the frontier of space exploration, in areas which retained uncertainty and were yet to be commercially viable.

In addition, Dr Graham Turnock discussed the role that space agencies had in the regulation of the space sector, drawing on the current levels of space debris within the Earth’s orbit as an example which the sector should focus on regulating. Dr Mohamed Al Junabi of the UAE Space Agency stressed that while the creation of a global space program was important, it would require an unprecedented level of regional and international cooperation. Simonetta Di Pippo of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Activities concluded the session by extoling the importance of both local and global programs in developing and emerging nations to further their sustainable development goals and further their economic growth.

The conclusion of the third session was followed by the arrival of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, who attended the official opening of the Global Space Congress.

During the official opening, HE Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, delivered an address on the importance of partnership and cooperation in space exploration. His Excellency highlighted how humanity’s fascination with space and desire to explore Mars is uniting nations and bringing the world’s greatest minds together. HE Al Falasi concluded by welcoming everyone and thanking the UAE leadership for their support of the Global Space Congress.

Following the Chairman’s address, Etienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy of Luxembourg spoke about the importance of partnerships in supporting the continued growth and development of the international space sector. Schneider highlighted his country’s cooperation with the UAE, the fundamental role of collaboration in nurturing innovation, and how partnerships between nations enable the realisation of otherwise unfeasible space research, science and exploration.

After the official opening, the panel discussions resumed with the fourth session dedicated to exploring the objectives of space programs. The session was moderated by Michael Gold, Vice President for Regulatory & Policy at Maxar Technologies.

Dr Thomas Zurbuchen commenced by reiterating that all space organizations share a common goal of advancing humankind’s legacy and improving life on Earth. Speaking about the Emirates Mars Mission, Omran Sharaf said that the mission will help the UAE address challenges like resource scarcity, and food and water security. Dr. Marc Serres outlined examples of how Luxembourg’s space partnerships contribute to the diversification of the nation’s economy. In addition, Dr Valanathan Munsami suggested that human capacity and infrastructure development should be prioritized by every space program as educating and inspiring the next generation is essential to the future prosperity of the sector.

The fifth and sixth plenary panel discussions focused on the development of partnerships for international benefits and the International Astronautical Congress 2020, respectively. The fifth session was moderated by Ben Basely-Walker, a Partner at Andart Global.

The panellists highlighted the numerous ways in which partnerships in space between nations and organizations are beneficial at national and international levels. By working together, countries and agencies are able to achieve more with less, sharing responsibility for financial burdens and infrastructure costs. Christodoulos Protopapas and Dr Li Xinjun also emphasized the importance of partnerships in inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in the space sector and providing them with the education and resources needed to facilitate their entry into the sector.

The sixth and final plenary panel focused on the upcoming International Astronautical Congress 2020. The panel was moderated by Dr Christian Feichtinger, the Executive Director of the International Astronautical Federation.

Jean-Yves Le Gall kicked-off the discussion by outlining the three primary reasons behind the IAF’s decision to hold IAC 2020 in Dubai, including the region’s rising importance, the UAE’s impressive space program and the exceptional infrastructure available in Dubai. HE Dr Eng Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi and Eng Salem Al Marri discussed the regional implications and importance of holding IAC 2020 in the Middle East as well as the continuous support and guidance the UAE space sector has received from the nation’s visionary leadership.

The conclusion of the plenary sessions was followed by the commencement of many symposiums dedicated to a variety of topics ranging from space traffic management and situational awareness to mining and the utilisation of space resources. In addition to the symposium multiple workshops and related activities took place on the side-lines the Congress.