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Space firms to develop Gulf-UK “Space Channel”

Space firms to develop Gulf-UK “Space Channel”

International space companies have won the opportunity to develop an ambitious project that will see Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) collaborate with the UK’s pioneering space sector to boost knowledge sharing, technology transfer, trade and investment on both sides. The ambitious venture will lay the foundations for a new “Space Channel” that has the wider potential to inspire further UK international space collaboration across the region.

UK-headquartered AstroAgency has partnered with Dubai-based counterparts, AzurX, to spearhead a programme aimed at harnessing the UK’s world-leading Earth Observation (EO) expertise - the gathering of information about the planet from space.

Secured through the UK Space Agency’s International Bilateral Fund (IBF), the firms have been awarded £75,000 after proposing EO, data and analytics solutions that include water resources management, urbanisation and infrastructure planning, monitoring carbon credit allocation to support ESG initiatives, oil and gas leak detection, and natural disaster monitoring.

The UK Space Agency is committed to developing a strong partnership with the Middle Eastern countries with the prospect of a burgeoning market appealing to local space firms.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency said, “Working with other space agencies and organisations across the globe through our International Bilateral Fund allows us to draw on skills that enhance our homegrown expertise and capabilities, drive up investment in the UK, and support world-class science and discovery.

“AstroAgency’s work on Earth observation data analytics with partners in the Middle East Projects highlights the many ways in which we can collaborate with the global space community to help humanity push the boundaries of space innovation and unlock commercial opportunities that will benefit our economy now and in the future.”

Space based Earth Observation is an area in which UK companies have considerable expertise, notably around supporting sustainability and the transition towards net zero, and can be a key driver in strengthening the UK space sector’s partnerships with the strategic and emerging space nations of the UAE and Bahrain, at the core of the IBF.

The project aims to develop new initiatives to harness EO, AI and machine learning capabilities with Bahrain and UAE, so that they can benefit from working with the UK’s fast-growing space sector. A potential outcome could see the partners secure up to £1.5 million to implement the developed concept with match funding potential from the Gulf.

Daniel Smith, founder of AstroAgency, stated, “The UK Space Agency’s IBF initiative represents an incredibly exciting opportunity for international space sector collaboration. Our project will showcase the UK’s impressive Earth Observation capabilities to new markets, promoting commercialisation opportunities, sharing knowledge on all sides and supporting the protection of the environment. As a company already promoting the role of space in unlocking a more sustainable future across multiple countries, we couldn’t be more excited to drive this forward.”

AstroAgency and AzurX have collaborated previously to build new relationships between the regions, with the companies completing contracts to support a Scottish Development International delegation of space companies to take part in the UK Pavilion’s Space Week during Expo2020 in Dubai, providing programming and content for ‘Space Day’ in the UK Pavilion.

That event also saw the launch of Scotland’s inaugural space strategy, co-authored by Smith, aligned with the UK’s National Space Strategy. Together the two firms represent close to sixty of the biggest names in space, including Blue Origin, Spire Global, the UK Space Agency, Euroconsult and ClearSpace. With this newly announced project supported by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai and National Space Science Agency of Bahrain (NSSA), the two firms’ impressive list of global connections is further enhanced.

Anna Hazlett, founder of AzurX, added: “The UAE has one of the fastest growing space programmes in the world whilst Bahrain’s space programme is quickly unfolding, this international collaboration offers an opportunity for UK space companies to enter and service the GCC region, whilst creating strong international trade and investment ties for years to come.”

As one of its economic drivers to diversify its economy; the UAE intends to invest up to £800 million in its space capabilities, as it looks forward to developing a close relationship with space companies across the UK.

Adnan AlRais, Assistant DG - Space Operations and Exploration Sector, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre said: “We are immensely proud to embark on this international collaboration, which signifies a monumental leap for the space industry. Partnering with Bahrain and the UK to drive innovation and development in space technology is a distinguished honour for the UAE. As we unite our resources, knowledge, and innovative capacities, we are setting the stage for a transformative trajectory in space innovation. This endeavour is not just about the immediate outcomes but the strategic blueprint it lays for the future of space exploration and commercialisation. We are confident in the potential of this project and eagerly await the pioneering milestones it promises to achieve."

The Director General of MBRSC, His Excellency Salem Al Marri reiterated he stands committed to supporting collaborations between UAE-based specialists like AzurX, and other country specialists, acknowledging that working together can yield highly effective contributions to the global space community. Reaffirming the future of space exploration and research hinges on efforts such as this.

A Statement from The National Space Science Agency from the Kingdom of Bahrain highlighted the organisation’s delight at working with AzurX and AstroAgency on the UK Space Agency initiative. It added: “The project, which is focusing on Earth Observation and Data Analytics, aims in its first phase to investigate the national priorities of Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, then matching it with the United Kingdoms’ capabilities in the field of monitoring and attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Gulf region. We believe that having Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre from the UAE as a regional partner is an excellent opportunity to serve the regions’ needs and further strengthen the international partnership and collaboration in the space sector between the three participating countries.”

During 2021’s World Satellite Business Week, AstroAgency and AzurX announced an MOU to seek new opportunities to bring the UK together with the UAE. The IBF initiative strengthens the partners track record of working on projects that have focused on international knowledge sharing, raising awareness of the benefits of space technology to Earth’s environments and the exploration of trade and inward investment opportunities. The current phase of the project will end in November.

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