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A Boost For Space Ambitions

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Bahrain hosts the sixth International Space Forum

Bahrain hosted the sixth International Space Forum at Ministerial Level—The Gulf Chapter (ISF 2024). This prestigious event, the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, signals Bahrain’s rising prominence on the global space stage.

Supported by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and the Italian Space Agency (ISA), the forum centered on the future of space exploration and its potential to drive economic and diplomatic advancements. Transport and Communications Minister and National Space Science Agency (NSSA) chairman Mohammed bin Thamer Al Kaabi emphasised the strategic importance of hosting such an event in the Gulf.

He highlighted the significant strides made by the Arab Gulf region and the broader Arab world in advancing space science. He pointed to NSSA’s collaborative efforts with international partners to create a platform that promotes innovation, knowledge exchange, and partnerships in space exploration, diplomacy, and economic development.
“Bahrain is committed to space exploration through NSSA’s strategic plan, aiming to make the kingdom a regional and global hub for space conferences and dialogues,” he said.

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The minister also pointed out the forum’s theme, “Space as a game-changer for diplomacy and economic development in the region,” emphasising the transformative potential of space technology in delivering smart, efficient services that benefit society and inform decision-makers.

GCC Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi praised Bahrain for hosting ISF 2024, noting the rapid development and growing interest in the space sector among GCC countries.
“The forum is important as it comes amid rapid development and increasing interest in the space sector in the GCC countries, reflecting their intent to keep pace with the growth and advancement in this field,” he said.

He highlighted critical issues discussed at the forum, such as Earth observation, space exploration, and the harmonisation of space policies. He expressed hope that the forum’s outcomes would encourage regional countries to invest more in space science, applications, services, and human capital. He emphasised the rapid growth in space services and applications, which contribute significantly to improving lives, including environmental monitoring, climate change analysis, GPS services, and support for sectors like health, energy, agriculture, and industry.

He also detailed the substantial investments in space exploration, with global investments reaching approximately $272 billion since 2013. He noted that the GCC countries have been working for decades to enhance their capabilities in the space field. This includes the establishment of national space agencies and authorities, the launch of specialised academic and training programs, and the encouragement of innovation and scientific research. The value of the GCC space economy is estimated at over $10 billion, with ambitions to increase investment further to achieve national plans.

Mr Albudaiwi highlighted the prominent achievements of GCC countries in the space sector. The UAE’s successful launch of the Hope Probe in 2020, Bahrain’s project to study and reduce carbon emissions with the UK, Saudi Arabia’s milestone of sending two pioneers to the International Space Station (ISS), Oman’s scientific launchpad project, Qatar’s satellite project for climate research with NASA, and Kuwait’s participation in the SMAP satellite project were noted as key accomplishments.

ISA president Professor Teodoro Valente praised Bahrain as the ideal location to discuss space topics, emphasizing an approach focused on stability, security, development, diversity, and national identity. He highlighted the region’s emerging space sector with great potential and expressed confidence in the fruitful collaboration between emerging and established space powers.
“This forum will open a new chapter of international action in the space sector, facilitating the advancement of cooperation for peaceful purposes,” said Prof Valente.

IAF president Eugene Clayton Mowry expressed appreciation for the NSSA’s efforts in hosting the forum. He noted NSSA’s remarkable participation and enthusiasm in IAF initiatives since joining in 2021. Mr Mowry affirmed that the forum provides a unique platform for decision-makers to take concrete steps to address the region’s needs and enhance their space-related capabilities and potential.

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