The growth of space programmes in the region comes from a desire to empower the upcoming generation of scientists and resolve environmental and climatic issues that are growing in the Middle East “beyond what classical technologies can help us resolve.”
Oman intends to construct the first space rocket launch facility in the area this year, reported The National.
The National Aerospace Services Company (Nascom)of the Sultanate will be in charge of the three-year construction project for the Etlaq Space Launch Complex, which will be located in the port city of Duqm.
The space rocket launch platform will be utilised to advance both academic study and global cooperation in the space industry.
“We have two main goals with the Duqm launch land: to build a launch centre for commercial, professional and educational rocket users to assemble, test and launch from,” Nascom stated.
“Considering the data, and our own site analysis, we acknowledge the location as an important national asset for Oman which must be developed. A national asset as such will continue to increase in importance over the next two decades as global industries look for solutions in space.”
The plan to build a space research facility in the nation was first unveiled in September of last year. Years earlier, the UAE had plans to build a Mars simulation city in 2017, but those plans fell through as the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre sought out land.
However, when a rocket carrying the Sultanate’s first satellite failed to reach its orbit earlier this month, Muscat’s plans to follow the UAE’s lead in space suffered a setback.
The Aman satellite was launched from Britain’s Spaceport, Cornwall, but according to Virgin Orbit, whose “LauncherOne” rocket was used for the launch, the system encountered an unspecified “anomaly, ending the mission prematurely.”
What makes Oman an optimum location?
“The launch centre will be globally accessible for expanding rocket companies, and locally available for educational research programmes.”
The equatorial location of Duqm, according to the report, makes it the perfect place for launch because rockets can benefit from the Earth’s rotational speeds.
“Internationally verified studies have identified that Wilayat Al-Duqm’s equatorial positioning places it in the top 5 most efficient rocket launch latitudes in the world,” the organisation said.
Dr. Essam Heggy, Chief Scientist and Research Director of the Earth Science Program at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) believes that Oman is well positioned for this.
“I am personally very happy to see a launch facility in the Arab world that would in the future support a lot of the space research of the growing number of research-based institution in our region.”
The scientist stressed to Doha News that he believes this launch facility is not a “luxury,” nor is it an “auxiliary research facility”.
“It’s an overdue one for the Middle East and one that I believe is well thought, well located and in a country that has the most open partnership relation with all the Middle East nations.
“The openness of Oman will will make this launch facility accessible for the whole arab world, which is really great.”
Is there a race space in the region?
The short answer is no. Dr. Heggy told Doha News that he believes that there is no space race in the Arab world.
“The perception that the Arab world is in a space race is just is an incorrect view to the attempt of any Arab nation trying to address their scientific research environment in in climate and in space with the proper with the tools they need,” he stated.
“Unfortunately many western media, they present any space initiative in the Arab world as a competition, as the space race when in fact this is not the case. There is no race and there is no competition.”
To him, the growth of the space programmes in the region comes from a desire to empower the upcoming generation of scientists and resolve environmental and climatic issues that are growing in the Middle East “beyond what classical technologies can help us resolve.”
“People see it as a race because they are not aware of the size and the magnitude of our climatic and environmental problems,” he added. “It’s a very naive and unfortunate view of the space research in the Arab world.
Qatar is starting its own space research programme and initiatives with NASA with both orbital and suborbital research that is geared towards understanding sea level rise and groundwater resources at this first stage.
Earlier this month, Qatar called on all nations, particularly those with greater capabilities in the field, to commit to using outer space for a sustainable and peaceful purpose.
Referencing Qatar’s National Vision 2030, the statement highlighted the country’s interest in developing and utilising space technology for sustainable social and economic development, training national experts in the field, and incorporating it into its national space programmes and plans.