Global Space Forum Kicks Off in Abu Dhabi

Commercialisation of space was a key area of focus at the fifth Global Space & Satellite Forum (GSSF), which began today (May 26) in Abu Dhabi.

The two-day forum running at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre highlighted the importance of investment in space education, which will support the growth of the industry and national security.

Knowledge transfer, raising awareness and education on the space industry were also areas of discussion as industry leaders gathered in the UAE capital to debate the most pressing issues and trends of the sector.

Various issues including space technology applications, low-cost satellite developments and the possibility of satellite system usages were also addressed at GSSF, as well as the updates on space policy and regulation.

The forum comes during an important week for the space industry as Ariane Flight VA223 lifts off from the spaceport in French Guiana tomorrow. The Ariane 5 rocket will be the latest and biggest satellite for DirecTV, one of the largest US satellite TV groups.

The forum highlighted that one of the potential commercial uses for small satellites includes better observation of developments happening on earth as they occur. At present, commercially available images from space tend to be poor quality and out of date.

The industry is also increasingly focusing on miniaturisation, such as small “cubesats”. These have a wide range of applications, from low-gravity experiments to improved weather forecasting.

Euroconsult forecasts some 510 small satellites will be launched around the world in the next five years, a more than 60 per cent increase on the number of launches over the whole of the past decade.

George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic explained the changes in commercialisation of space. He highlighted Google’s acquisition of skybox as a key moment for the space industry recently. The panel discussion showed that thanks to advances in technology, reduced costs and the interest of high-profile billionaires, the space industry is experiencing increased commercialisation.

Dr Rolf Densing, programme director (European Space Programmes), German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany said: “Some private companies are spending enormous amounts on space. Space agencies may have to rethink their own role. Agencies should take space as a means to serve society. Space Agency’s should be in charge of organising boundary conditions and should refrain from micromanaging private entities.

“We have to turn over more responsibility to industry. We have to hold them responsible for products and industry must stay competitive.”

Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director general of UAE Space Agency said: “One of the most exciting parts of our industry is the ideas, initially designed for use in space, that have prompted another technology revolution right here on the ground. Inventions such as the global positioning system (GPS), the cell phone, and new more powerful radios all utilize satellites to function. These and many other essential items would be almost unthinkable today without research provided by satellite technology.

“Many of technologies that are now part of everyday life were originally developed for space programs. We have space research to thank for modern bio-medical techniques, imaging technology, digital systems, robotics, information and communication technology, meteorological applications, environmental monitoring, remote sensing imagery, and more. There are, without exaggeration, hundreds of such spinoff applications of space projects. We look forward to the contributions of Emirati scientists will make to modern technology,” he added.

Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, director, ISRO Satellite Centre said: “The presentation focuses on the different facets of the Indian Space Programme and its achievements, benefits to the society with special emphasis on the success story of Indian Mars Orbiter Mission. Various technical and managerial challenges faced during the realization of critical systems for Mars Orbiter Mission and Innovative solutions to overcome these challenges, detailed mission planning are dealt with. ISRO’s International Cooperation in various domains is also touched upon.”

GSSF also announced that it will resume as an annual space event, a congress that brings together the world’s top space leaders in the UAE. It will enhance Abu Dhabi’s position as a regional space hub. The GSSF will have a new name — the Global Space Congress.

The forum, organised by Streamline Marketing Group (SMG), is officially endorsed and hosted by the UAE Space Agency. – TradeArabia News Service

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