The UAE Space Agency hosts ‘Women in Space’ conference at Dubai Airshow 2019

19 November 2019

The UAE Space Agency hosted the ‘Women in Space’ conference on the second day of Dubai Airshow 2019. The conference saw various experts and decision makers in the global space sector come together in the Space Pavilion, to discuss the importance of gender diversity, capacity building, and the use of advanced technologies for the evolution of the global space industry.

The conference comprised various panel discussions, in which high-profile speakers from the UAE Space Agency were involved. Speakers from the UAE Space Agency included His Excellency Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency; His Excellency Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency; Naser Al Rashedi, Director of Space Policy and Regulations at the UAE Space Agency; Dr. Fatima Yahya ALAydaroos, Space Science Expert at the UAE Space Agency; and Heyam Al Blooshi, Design Engineer at the UAE Space Agency.

The conference kicked off with an opening keynote by His Excellency Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, who highlighted the role of women in the development of the space sector. His Excellency Dr. Al Falasi said: “We are incredibly proud of the fact that more than 45% of our national space sector is made up of women. While the fact remains that women are underrepresented in STEM field arounds the world, here in the UAE we have seen the role of women grow across the industry, which contributes to the rapid growth and incredible success of the UAE’s space sector.”

His Excellency Dr. Al Falasi participated in a panel entitled ‘Education and the role of STEM in Space – capacity building for industry creation’, which highlighted the importance of STEM education and raising the young generation’s awareness about the space industry. The panel was moderated by Her Excellency Dr. Bahjat Yousef, Special Advisor to the President of Zayed University. Ismail Ali Abdulla, the CEO of Strata, and Leanne Caret, the CEO of Defence, Space and Security at Boeing, took part in the panel providing insightful thoughts on the subject.

As part of the panel discussion, His Excellency Dr. Al Falasi stressed the importance of enriching and investing in local talent for developing space-related capabilities, saying: “We encourage Emirati youth to pursue STEM education and take part in the advancement of the space industry. Therefore, we are actively engaging with universities to create space programs, as well as providing students with the best opportunities to study niche programs abroad to prepare them to become future industry pioneers.”

“It is essential to establish a link between education and space, which is vital for maximizing the value of the space sector in the UAE. During the recent successful launch of Hazza Al Mansouri to the International Space Station, he was constantly in touch with young Emirati students to raise their awareness of the space sector and inspire them to follow his journey. The support that came from Emirati youth promises another generation of brilliant scientists, engineers, mathematicians and astronauts,” His Excellency Dr. Al Falasi added.

His Excellency Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of The UAE Space Agency, participated in a panel entitled ‘The future of space – gender diversity and sustainability’ along with Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs; Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES); and Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences in the UAE. The panel, which was moderated by Nawal Al Hosany, Permanent Representative of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), discussed the role of gender diversity in driving the sustainability of the space sector, which is crucial for the growth of the sector.

His Excellency Dr. Eng. Al Ahbabi said: “We believe that empowering women is important in contributing to the sustainability of both Earth and Space. In the last couple of years, we saw two Emirati Space organizations, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and the UAE Space Agency, win the 3G Diversity Award, which highlights the UAE space sector’s commitment to diversity and sustainability on a global level.”

His Excellency Dr. Eng. Al Ahbabi pointed out that MeznSat, a satellite that is due to be launched to space later this year has a number of females involved in its designing and manufacturing. “MeznSat will be able to gather vast amounts of environmental data, which will contribute to achieving sustainability on Earth,” His Excellency added.

Moreover, in a panel entitled ‘Unlocking value from space technology and enabling industry benefit’, Naser Al Rashedi, Director of Space Policy and Regulations at the UAE Space Agency, stressed how space technologies can contribute to the development of different industries and the achievement of sustainability. Al Rashedi also highlighted the role that the UAE’s space policy plays in supporting space projects.

The panel discussion was moderated by Kim Schofield, Founder and Managing Partner at O2K Limited, and included Géraldine Naja, Head of Industrial Policy and Auditing Department at the European Space Agency; Lucy Edge, Chief Operating Officer at Satellite Applications Catapult; Dr. Michaelyn Thomas, Head of Affordability at Virgin Orbit; and Shelli Brunswick, Chief Operating Officer at Space Foundation.

Dr. Fatima Yahya ALAydaroos, Space Science Expert at the UAE Space Agency, took part in a panel entitled ‘Going beyond big data with Earth Observation’, along with Dr. Hala Al Jassar from the Department of Physics at Kuwait University; Will Marshall, Co-founder of Planet Labs; Adnan AlRais, Senior Director of the Remote Sensing department at MBRSC; and Diana Alsindy, Propulsion Development Engineer at Virgin Orbit.

In the panel, which was moderated by Dr. Luigi Scatteia, Partner and Space Practice Leader at PwC Advisory, ALAydaroos showed how developing space technologies and having proper infrastructure are essential for tackling different environmental challenges. She also emphasized the importance of regulation and having secure platforms for Earth Observation.

During the conference, four aspiring young space explorers and one select educator were awarded Astronaut Al Worden “Endeavour” Scholarship, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the UAE Space Agency and Kallman Worldwide last month. The selected applicants will spend a week at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s renowned Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, where they will get a chance to gain hands-on astronaut training experience.

Dubai Airshow is one of the largest and most important aerospace events in the world, which had its first exhibition in 1986. It provides a world class exhibition showcasing the latest and greatest in military, general and commercial aviation. The 2019 edition of the exhibition is set to be Dubai Airshow’s biggest show ever with 1,300 exhibitors, a global media representation, and 165 aircrafts on display.