Countdown to the launch of Morocco’s 2nd Satellite, Mohammed 6-B

Maroc-Tubsat - Morocco's first satellite

Morocco launched the country’s first microsatellite in 2001 when it’s Maroc-TUBSAT (Zarkae Al Yamama), a joint undertaking between the country’s Royal Centre for Remote Sensing and the German Technical University of Berlin, hitched a ride on a Zenit-2 rocket whose primary payload was the Russian Meteor-3M satellite. Morocco is expected to launch Mohammed 6-B, the second in a pair of Earth-observation satellites before the end of 2018

Overview of the Morocco Space Industry

After launching its first high-resolution satellite in 2017, the North African country is reinforcing its space surveillance capabilities with another space engine. Moroccan newspaper Al Massae quoted an anonymous military source on September 4, who confirmed the news.

The project will cost Morocco €500 million and will be able to monitor activities on its borders; taking pictures with a precision of 50 centimeters.

Military spending dwarfs education, health

The satellite’s cost is a significant portion of Morocco’s military spending. Morocco increased its military spending to $3.42 billion in 2017 from $3.327 billion a year earlier. The number represents an increase of 1.03 percent.

In contrast, Morocco’s 2017 budget allocated MAD 3.8 billion to education and MAD 2.4 billion to health.

Morocco is also the second largest buyer of military equipment in Africa after Algeria, according to a 2018 report issued by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Although the report does not specify Morocco’s military expenditures,  it featured Morocco as the second largest arms importer in Africa at the rate of 21 percent of African arms imports from 2013-2017.

Al Massae reported that the satellite will be ready to be launched in November, which will make Morocco the third African country to acquire two satellites, after Egypt and South Africa.

Like the first satellite, baptized Mohammed VI, the second satellite will be launched from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou, French Guiana.

The project, according to the newspaper, is part of an agreement between France and Morocco signed in 2013 during the visit of former French President Francois Hollande to Morocco.

Both satellites are for civilian and military uses

The satellite’s surveillance uses

The first high-resolution satellite, which weighs over 1,100 kilograms, was used successfully to detect illegal activities from the Polisario Front east of Morocco’s defense wall earlier this year.

To prove Polisario’s illegal maneuvers, Morocco used satellite images that showed Polisario in the region.

The United Nations, which is the leading political process to find an agreed upon and mutually acceptable solution to the Western Sahara conflict, released a statement after Morocco provided proofs to the UN of the continuous presence of the front in the region.

In its statement, the UN spokesperson recognized that a MINURSO patrol unit encountered Polisario east of the berm wall, facing gunfire on April 16.

Several analysts also speculated that the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation provided images to Iran as evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement with members of the Polisario Front when Morocco decided to cut ties with Iran on May 1.

The Mohammed VI satellite, which is capable of capturing more than 500 images daily, updates its data every six hours. It was also launched to help Morocco’s security agencies fight smuggling and arrest potential terrorists in the Sahel region and to control undocumented migration.

Morocco’s Ministry of Interior has not yet unveiled any information about the second satellite.

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