The former head of Egypt’s space program on Dec. 7 proposed that Arab nations together develop a medium-resolution optical Earth observation satellite as part of an industry-government partnership that ultimately would lead to an Arab Space Agency.

Mohamed Argoun, in a presentation to the Global Space Technology Forum in Abu Dhabi, said there is no use talking about a Pan-Arab space agency until a concrete, multilateral program with industrial and university participation with governments is under way.

Argoun said the past enthusiasm for space projects in Arab countries reached a peak several years ago and “is now waning.” The way to reignite it, he said, is to develop a modest space technology industry in Arab nations so that each nation could contribute to an observation satellite with a 2-meter ground resolution.

The satellite would follow on from Earth observation spacecraft in orbit or under construction in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Dubai and Morocco, all of which were built with little involvement by local industry.

Appealing to the adventure and science of space, he said, is a nonstarter. Arab governments, he said, are “not worried about water on the Moon.”

“Space technology alone is not a sufficient motive” to create a viable Arab space program, Argoun said. “The answer, to stimulate next-generation satellites, is a joint Arab remote-sensing satellite as a prelude to an Arab Space Agency. There has to be a joint project and a joint program before [the creation of] a joint political body.”

Argoun said Egypt has already begun work at universities to develop optical cameras and has plans to develop its own capacity to produce satellite reaction wheels.

The same day Argoun spoke, four African nations — Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa — signed an agreement on an African Resource Management Satellite system during the African Leadership Conference in Algiers, Algeria.