Abu Dhabi Space Debate: Need to go beyond siloed approaches in space utilisation, says Sarah Bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE minister | The Financial Express

Abu Dhabi Space Debate: Need to go beyond siloed approaches in space utilisation, says Sarah Bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE minister

We are proud that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing the debate and helping to set the scene for the deliberations and working panels that will result from this inaugural event and lead to further events, Minister said.

Abu Dhabi Space Debate: Need to go beyond siloed approaches in space utilisation, says Sarah Bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE minister
"UAE's Mars mission, for instance, is a highly autonomous system and we can see the huge possibilities in layering on that autonomy with more complex and decision-capable systems."

Early next month Abu Dhabi Space Debate is taking place where the focus will be on the market growth anticipated for global space systems, services, engineering and exploration by bringing together elite global representatives from space agencies, governments, research bodies, and businesses.

“The Abu Dhabi Space Debate aims to create a new forum to convene different perspectives, where agreement and coalitions can be built. We’re looking at achieving concrete outcomes, rather than creating a talking shop,” says Sarah Bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, Chair of the UAE Space Agency.

Sarah Bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, Chair of the UAE Space Agency and the Abu Dhabi Space Debate Committee, shares her views on different aspects of the Space Debate with Huma Siddiqui. Excerpts:

In which way the space debate is setting the dialogue around a unified approach to mitigate the complex cyber risks and securing the safety and security of space assets and infrastructure?

Since the invention of the first communications satellites, earthbound communications have relied to some extent or another on satellite and space-based technologies such as GPS are now not only playing a critical military role, they have become part of our everyday lives.

This merely serves to reinforce the vital importance of improving and implementing global regulations and agreements addressing the safety and security of space assets–and while the sector understands which questions need to be asked and which aspects of the governance frameworks require updates, new actors, technologies, and economic and military interests mean that reaching agreement on these issues is increasingly challenging.

Also Read | NASA stalls Artemis I Moon mission again due to tropical storm Nicole

Kindly elaborate on the enhancing security of space assets to ensure the security of the country’s critical assets.

One key priority for discussion on space governance at the Abu Dhabi Space Debate will be how to go beyond siloed approaches to the civilian, commercial, and military utilisation of space – lines which are now increasingly blurred. As I pointed out earlier, the very success of space-based assets has been shown in their commoditization, but that now extends not only to critical logistics, shipping and other infrastructure but to our day to day reliance on location-based services, navigation and other space-enabled services.

One of the most fascinating aspects of technology is where innovation has unintended consequences – one brilliant recent example has been how the SpaceX Starlink constellation was used to maintain connectivity during the conflict in Europe, a key development in that conflict that brought the efficacy of that particular constellation into global consciousness.

One of the earliest and most hotly anticipated sessions at the Abu Dhabi Space Debate is titled ‘The New Geopolitics of Space’ – it’s an area where we have a huge amount of work to do and where we face huge barriers. I believe no barrier is insurmountable, however.

Which technology trends will have the biggest impact on space in the next decade?

We in the Emirates are currently investing in a new generation of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) earth observation satellites, which will play a critical role in land use planning, urban planning and most importantly in helping us to navigate our path to net zero by 2050. The use of multispectral earth observation satellites together with big data analysis will play a major role in the growth of space-focused companies that don’t necessarily own their own space-based assets. You’ll have heard the line about Google the world’s biggest publisher owning no printing press, Airbnb the world’s biggest hospitality company not owning a hotel and so on. Well, there is every chance that the world’s leading satellite technology company moving forwards won’t even own a satellite.

Adding to that, the rise of the private sector and the proliferation of constellations will continue to shape the sector, providing both amazing opportunities but also amazing challenges. We are, incidentally, looking at a global opportunity for the sector by 2040 being something like a trillion-dollar market.

How will robotics and AI be a multiplier for exploration?

Both have limitless potential, clearly. Our Mars mission, for instance, is a highly autonomous system and we can see the huge possibilities in layering on that autonomy with more complex and decision-capable systems.

What will in-space manufacturing mean for our space environment?

Again, in-space manufacturing is potentially – arguably inevitably – transformational. However, I do see it as a longer-term play that is going to depend on a great deal of foundational work in the short term – the sort of work we are trying to pull together with the Abu Dhabi Space Debate. We need to redefine – and in many cases come together to define, notions of ownership, responsibility, sustainability and resource optimization in space. In-space manufacturing makes most sense where space-based extractive assets come into play and we have no framework today for defining the concepts of ownership and rights at a national, let alone individual or corporate, level.

Also Read | ISRO to explore dark side of Moon, plans to return to Mars

Can you elaborate on Lunar mining, which is deemed as fuelling the future of space exploration?

There has been a great deal of speculation and debate about the viability of lunar mining and the potential for the Moon to be a ‘staging post’ for our exploration of the wider solar system. It is to support this that the Artemis Accords were drawn up, an agreement that outlines some of the principles for cooperation and collaboration in extractive and other endeavours. It’s important to note that the Artemis Accords are themselves fundamentally a restatement and refining of part of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 – much of our legislation and regulation of space is similarly outdated and while many noble principles established in that period remain valid, technology, politics and other factors have seen the world change fundamentally since then – requiring a totally new approach to how we define regulation, co-operation – and, indeed, competition, in space.

Sarah Bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, Chair of the UAE Space Agency and the Abu Dhabi Space Debate Committee

Is the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) part of this global debate?

We are proud that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing the debate and helping to set the scene for the deliberations and working panels that will result from this inaugural event and lead to further events but also working groups and real, practical solutions to the very many interconnected issues facing our sector moving forwards. His participation is a testament to India’s deep involvement in space exploration and innovation, and to its key role as a young, vibrant space capable nation. We are seeing enormous global expansion in the space capabilities of young nations and ISRO is an important voice in the room as the world moves ahead to define new ways of working together to explore this infinite and exciting universe of ours.

Some insights on regulations and standards for hacker-proofing technologies across the entire space supply chain.

As we place increased reliance on space-based assets, clearly the criticality of ensuring the security of those assets increases – and that’s not just the spacecraft and its systems but ground operations, telemetry and every other component of what is a highly complex and deeply interrelated series of systems. In today’s world, these are not only multiple points of potential access – they are multinationally located and operated points of access.

If you look at the Emirates Mars mission, for instance, we maintain two ground segment operations teams – one in the Emirates and a backup at LASP – and connect to the Deep Space Network, which has antennae in the US, Australia and Spain. Multiple levels of security are required at each point of contact and communication and between multiple team members at those locations. It’s not just the potential vulnerability of the asset but of the entire connected network, which is often also exposed to operating with multiple other assets. Given the collaborative nature of today’s space sector, we are massively interdependent and security is literally mission critical for every one of us.

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 11-11-2022 at 09:40 IST