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Oman to send first deep space satellite in 2024

26 Jan 2022 nanosatellite By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – Under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, International Emerging Technologies Company (ETCO) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with innovative space companies – Virgin Orbit, SatRevolution and TUATARA – for Oman’s first nanosatellite mission to explore deep space.

As part of the historic mission for the sultanate, scheduled in the third quarter of 2024, the group plans to launch a SatRevoution CubeSat satellite aboard a Virgin Orbit rocket that will conduct scientific research and capture imagery of deep space.

The agreement was ratified by Abdulaziz Jaafar, CEO of ETCO, and Steve Eisele, vice president, Business & Strategy of Virgin Orbits.

Emphasising the significance of the project for the sultanate, the signing ceremony was held in the presence of H E Dr Ali al Shidhani, Undersecretary for Communications and Information Technology at the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, H E Dr Mohammad bin Said al Maamari, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, and Ambassador Leslie M Tsou, United States Ambassador to Oman.

Under the agreement, the project will initially deliver a nanosatellite that will enable groundbreaking scientific research and capture high-resolution images of deep space.

“Despite many technical advances to date, only a few organisations have been bold enough to successfully launch deep space projects,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “We are proud to have been entrusted by the Sultanate of Oman as their launch partner in helping to fulfil their ambitious goals to help bring sustainable space solutions to the country.”

“This partnership is a major step in helping us to enrich the sultanate’s space industry with the latest technologies and know-how, while adding overall economic value according to Oman’s 2040 Vision,” Tariq al Belushi, ETCO vice president said.

“With this milestone project, we provide further opportunities in a sector of high potential for both local and international investors.”

This partnership is the followup to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by ETCO during the International Astronautical Congress held in October 2021 in Dubai, which established the co-operation of the parties to design, manufacture and launch the first Omani satellite in the low Earth orbit. The nanosatellite, manufactured by Polish nanosatellite manufacturer and operator SatRevolution, will be fired onboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne in the first ever launch from the United Kingdom’s Spaceport Cornwall in 2022.

TUATARA, as advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics specialist, in strategic partnership with ETCO, will collect data and images, both from the low Earth orbit and deep space missions, which will be further digitally analysed using computer vision (CV), machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. It will be possible to detect hidden patterns, identify trends and predict changes caused, for example, by the climate or by natural disasters.

Both, low Earth orbit and deep space projects, will contribute to the near-term goals of the Sultanate of Oman. This exciting mission will also provide investment and research opportunities, with a number of universities’ Academic Exchange Programmes, to unlock new horizons for the next generation of world space explorers and innovators whilst investing in national talent that will build a promising future for the Omani populace.

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