The UAE Space Agency celebrates its second anniversary, reflecting on its remarkable achievement since its establishment. These successes include developing and integrating the UAE national space sector, launching the Agency’s strategy and signing several important Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with prominent global space industry players.
Established under federal law by Decree No. 1 of 2014, the UAE Space Agency has a mandate to organize, regulate and support the national space sector. It also encourages the development and use of space science and technology in the country, and advises the sector in this regard. In addition, the Space Agency contributes to economic diversification and bolsters the international standing of both the UAE and its space sector through partnerships across the industry. Raising awareness about the importance of space technologies, enhancing national capabilities, and encouraging peaceful application of space research also fall within the agency’s responsibility.
A sound foundation for a vital sector
During this relatively short period, the Space Agency has gone to great lengths to develop the national space sector in the UAE. These efforts have included formulating the UAE National Space Policy, which is currently being reviewed by relevant parties, and finalizing the UAE National Space Strategy. In May 2015, the UAE Space Agency Strategic Plan was launched in line with the UAE Vision 2021, which aims to establish the UAE as one of the world’s leading countries in time for the UAE’s Golden Jubilee when the UAE will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
The Strategic Plan consists of four main objectives. The first is to develop and guide a world-class national space sector that serves the country’s highest interests, contributes to a diversified national economy and supports sustainable development. The second is to promote scientific research and innovation to support the state’s scientific progress in space sciences and technologies. The third is to attract and encourage citizens to pioneer in space science and technology fields. The fourth is to build and enhance international cooperation and partnership in a manner that serves the national space sector and provides administrative services with high-quality standards and transparency.
In the past two years, the Space Agency has successfully established relationships with several global space industry organizations and agencies that have a common vision for space exploration. This includes signing MoU’s with NASA and the national space agencies of France, Russia, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom, among other.
The Space Agency was also successful in gaining membership to the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, making the UAE the first Arab country to join the prestigious global organization. Further highlighting the global recognition for the UAE space program, it also attained membership of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which promotes the open access to Earth Observation data for the benefit of all humankind.
The agency has been involved in a number of high level activities within the sector, sharing its success stories and exchanging experiences with global decision makers in doing so. It participated in the International Space Forum in Colorado, where a seminar covered the latest developments of the Emirati space sector, its impact on economic growth and future strategies. It also participated in the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) meetings, where it played an important role in the global space sector and advancing international cooperation. In addition, the agency addressed leading organizations in the field of disaster and relief management at the Working Group on Emergency Telecommunications, participated in the MAKS 2015 aviation and space exhibition in Moscow, Russia. It has also sent delegations to the Paris Air Show, Japan Space Week and the Dubai Airshow.
The UAE Space Agency attracted global attention and strengthened the national standing in the international space community with the organization of a mission to observe and study the entry of an artificial space debris into the Earth’s atmosphere in November 2015. The mission, which was a joint project with the Abu Dhabi-based International Astronomy Centre and the NASA, represented a unique opportunity for scientists due to the limitations on precisely predicting the time and place of entry into the atmosphere. This facilitated global development of orbital forecasts and studies of near-earth objects, such as asteroids, meteors, satellites and debris.
Developing specialist skills
As for education, the agency has launched a number of initiatives that contribute to developing the human capital necessary for establishing a knowledge-based economy and encourage students to take up studies related to the space sector. These initiatives include an educational program with Lockheed Martin, the Little Engineer Space Workshops in cooperation with Airbus, and various contests to encourage students to participate in the space science fields, such as the space rocket design and Mars competitions.
The UAE Space Agency has cooperated with the Ministry of Education and other education officials through joint working groups to review the curricula for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. It also signed an MoU with the Higher Colleges of Technology to cooperate in developing trained personnel, attracting Emiratis to careers in the UAE space sector and creating sophisticated laboratories for space program and satellite systems. The MoU also outlines work experience and practical training opportunities for students.
Through a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and the ICT Fund, the Space Agency has provided a range of opportunities for outstanding students to take part in domestic and international missions. It also signed a number of agreements with prestigious educational organizations to hold summer camps that give students insight into the space field. These include visits to space sector facilities within the UAE, in addition to travelling abroad to space centers in the USA and UK.
Other efforts to raise awareness about space sciences include organizing planetary observation events, in cooperation with the UAE International Astronomy Centre. One such event monitored the Mars Opposition, during which the Red Planet and Earth were aligned and at their closest point. Another observed Mercury, and gathered specialists and lecturers in astronomy, space sciences and space exploration. Through events of this sort, the agency aims to increase public interest in national space activities, such as the Hope Probe that will explore Mars. The Space Agency is overseeing and funding the Mars mission, which has so far covered several key stages in the design process.
Al Romaithi: We are proud of our achievements and look to the future
H.E. Dr Khalifa Al Romaithi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, said: “We are proud and honored to celebrate the second anniversary of the UAE Space Agency. With our solid foundation, we reaffirm our absolute commitment to the nation, and to raising the UAE’s profile within the global space sector. We are determined to fulfil the leadership’s decision to become a leading nation in space sciences, and to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the UAE by reaching Mars”.
He continued: “Since our foundation, we at the UAE Space Agency have worked to realize the vision of our national leadership for this sector, which took form in 1973 when Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan met with a NASA delegation. The governmental vision, care and support offered to the Space Agency serves as motivation for all those leading our various projects to continue to work towards the established goals”.
Al Romaithi added: “The creation of the UAE Space Agency embodied the ambitious UAE Vision 2021. It came to adopt a deep-rooted and glorious heritage, reviving the history of our pioneering ancestors through the determination of innovative Emiratis and qualified individuals who have led this sector towards excellence”.
H.E. noted that the founding of the Space Agency provided the necessary tools for creating a stable and sustainable environment that promotes innovation in space and its exploration, supporting the global economy, advancing knowledge and strengthening national capabilities.
Al Romaithi stressed that, despite being recently established, the successes achieved by the UAE Space Agency in this short period have put it on the right path for catching up with its counterpart agencies in the global space sector. Sound infrastructure for launching future space projects has been established, which will attract investment in the sector. The education sector has also been developed so that it includes more about space sciences and their applications, so to inspire citizens towards specialization in space exploration fields. The agency’s determination to propose more initiatives and projects will raise the profile of the UAE within the global space sector.
Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, Yahsat Chief Executive Officer, said, “Since inception, the UAE Space Agency has been instrumental in raising our nations profile as a pioneering member of the global space community by developing and nurturing home-grown talent, and by leading and encouraging the exploration of new horizons. On behalf of the Yahsat team, and our peers in the space and satellite sector, I would like to congratulate the UAE Space Agency on its second anniversary,”
H.E. Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director General of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) said: “The UAE Space Agency was able in just two years to achieve a number of accomplishments that have reinforced the UAE's role in the global space community. Locally, it has also played a key role in developing a space strategy and regulating the space sector.”
Al Shaibani stressed that agreements signed by the agency with its counterparts, as well as the opportunity to organize or participate in conferences and forums have opened up new horizons for all parties concerned with the space sector in the UAE. Al Shaibani praised the agency's role in overseeing and supporting the Emirates Mars Mission - Hope Probe, and its efforts to make all necessary resources available to ensure the project is completed successfully and according to schedule.
Bernie Dunn, President of Boeing Middle East, commented:
“This year Boeing celebrates its Centennial and is looking forward to the next 100 years with great anticipation. We see space exploration as an important frontier for Boeing and the UAE,” said Bernard Dunn, president of Boeing Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.
Dunn added: “We congratulate the UAE Space Agency on its second anniversary and are proud to see the progress made and the partnerships established. We see great opportunity to accelerate planned activities and work together to shape the future of space exploration and the journey to Mars.”
Samir Halawi, Chief Executive Officer at Thuraya, said: “In the past, Arab scientists observed the stars to learn more about the world around them. This tradition continues with the pioneering and comprehensive approach of the UAE Space Agency.”
He continued: “The UAE has developed a new path for contributing to humanity. The UAE Space Agency was founded to build bridges with the world’s leading space agencies, since sharing scientific knowledge and the spirit of cooperation will create a lasting legacy.”
Halawi added that the UAE’s investment in the satellite industry began 18 years ago with the launch of Thuraya, which today stands as one of the leading Mobile Satellite Services thanks to Emirati innovation. He affirmed that its goal of improving quality of life is strengthened through the Space Agency and its application and research of space technologies.
“With the Yahsat communication satellite system and the Falcon Eye high performance Earth observation satellites, we are building together a sustainable cooperation between Airbus Defence and Space and the United Arab Emirates”, said Nicolas Chamussy, Head of Space Systems. Through these programmes, highly talended engineers are trained to the operations, the functions of the satellite and the best use of the systems. “A first good example is the success of the training programme for the engineers from the United Arab Emirates who will control and operate the satellites once in orbit. Airbus Defence and Space is proud and eager to continue offering our partner the opportunity to make the best use of their state-of-the-art space capabilities.”