UAE Space Agency Celebrates Fourth Anniversary

12 July 2018

The UAE Space Agency today celebrated its fourth anniversary with a commemorative ceremony being held in Abu Dhabi. The event highlighted a range of the Agency’s successes in developing, coordinating and leading the national space sector since being founded in 2014.

Attending the ceremony were H.E. Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, along with members of the UAE Space Agency Board of Directors and H.E. Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency. Also present were a range of UAE government officials and private sector stakeholders, in addition to regional and international partners.

H.E. Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, said: “Over the past four years, we have strategically shaped our space sector, incorporating the latest technologies and developing forward-thinking legal and regulatory frameworks. We have now placed ourselves at the forefront of the international space sector - working with partners and compatriots around the world to enrich and inspire humanity. We aim to provide the next generation with the skills and resources they need to create a brighter future for all. We are proud of what we have achieved, but refuse to rest on our laurels. With every success comes the next challenge, the next project, initiative or program.”

He added: “The UAE Space Agency regulates, supports, and develops our national space sector, in addition to launching ambitious space programs, projects and initiatives that reflect our government’s vision, strategic objectives and plans. This mandate has directly influenced many other vital sectors in the country, especially the fields of education and scientific research.”

H.E. Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, said: “Since its establishment, the Agency’s ambitions have known no limits - mirroring the aspirations of the Emirati youth who seek to master the various domains of space science and technology. Today, we are closer than ever before to achieving one of our most important goals - seeing an Emirati astronaut raise our beloved flag aboard the International Space Station.”

He added: “The UAE Space Agency has achieved numerous strategic objectives and grown inconceivably quickly in a short period of time, especially when compared to other space programs. This leap forward has propelled us closer to reaching our goals and fulfilling our purpose as an Agency - we have secured our place within the international space community and inspired people and their governments around the world.”

The anniversary event highlighted the Agency’s successes over the past four year in promoting the national space sector, forming legislative and legal frameworks, launching space exploration and utilization projects, and developing an integrated educational system.

National Space Program

Over the past four years, the UAE Space Agency has overseen the launch of significant projects that reflect the national ambition to bolster its leading position in the regional space sector. In particular, the launch of the National Space Program succeeded in forming a framework for a range of UAE space exploration projects. The National Space Program is the largest of its kind in the region and includes a range of initiatives related to advanced space science and technology.

Forming part of the National Space Program, the UAE Astronaut Program received more than 4,000 applications from talented Emiratis across a range of disciplines and careers. In addition, Mars Scientific City is set to open in 2020, providing the world’s largest and most advanced simulation of Martian terrain that will advance global technological solutions for exploring the planet. In addition, the Mars Hope Probe, which is led entirely by a team of Emirati engineers and specialists, remains on track for launch in 2020 when it will become the region’s first interplanetary probe.

Satellite Development and Launch

Satellites also remain an important part of national space sector activities, and January 2018 saw the launch of YahSat’s Al Yah 3, with the Emirati satellite operator introducing broadband coverage to new markets in Africa and South America. Also scheduled for launch in 2018, KhalifaSat is the first project of its kind to be entirely designed and developed by a team of Emirati engineers. This high-tech satellite will provide advanced Earth Observation services that will enhance and enable activities in various vital sectors.

The UAE Space Agency has also worked closely with leading universities to develop student skillsets to design, build and operate satellites. This includes the MeznSat project, a 3U CubeSat project being developed by a team of undergraduates from Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research and the American University of Ras Al Khaima. Having completed its Preliminary Design Review, the satellite is scheduled to launch in 2019, with the objective of collecting data on carbon dioxide and methane levels in the UAE’s atmosphere. A team of students will process and analyse the data being transmitted to a ground station in the UAE, providing insights into concentrations of nutrients and algae in the Arabian Gulf that will inform local responses and preventative measures.

Regulation and Legislation

Having successfully developed and implemented the National Space Sector Policy, the UAE Space Agency is now in the final stages of preparing the National Space Sector Strategy and the National Space Law, which are set to be issued in 2018.

International Standing

Over the past four years, the UAE Space Agency has gained significant international recognition from international bodies and foreign space agencies. At present, the UAE Space Agency has signed more than 25 important Memorandums of Understanding with leading space agencies around the world, with a concentration on cooperating in space exploration, knowledge exchange, technology transfers and other important areas. International MOUs have been signed with NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, the UK Space Agency, CNES, KARI and many others.

Most recently, the Agency signed new memoranda of understanding with the Government of South Australia and the Republic of South Africa, in addition to signing letters of intent with France, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Throughout its four years, the Agency has also gained membership in leading international space sector organizations, including the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG), the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). Recently, the UAE also became an official member of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.

Global Space Sector Events

As part of its mandate, the UAE Space Agency has represented the UAE at the most prominent international space events and conferences, where it has presented its vision and shared its successes with global policy-makers and industry actors. Over the past year, this has included Satellite 2018 and the 34th Space Symposium in the USA, MAKS International Aviation and Space Show in Russia, SpaceOps in France and the International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF) in Japan.

Most notably, the UAE Space Agency saw wide participation in the UNISPACE+50 events that marked the fiftieth anniversary of the first UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. During the event in Vienna, Austria, the UAE adopted a resolution that emphasised space as a driver for socio-economic sustainable development, drawing on the Dubai Declaration of 2016. 

In addition, the UAE submitted a successful bid to host the 71st International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in 2020. IAC is the world’s largest specialised conference in the global space sector, and the UAE edition of the event marks the first time it will be held in the region.