The UAE is seeking opportunities to explore celestial bodies, develop satellite communications technology and deploy the latest space technologies in terrestrial applications. The UAE recognises the need for the applications of remote sensing through satellites, including natural resource mapping, environmental monitoring, land-use planning and security.
The National Space Fund is an AED 3 billion fund from UAE Space Agency. It will support ground-breaking programmes that support international and Emirati companies co-operating in space sector engineering, sciences and research applications. The Fund’s first project to be launched to space will be a constellation of advanced remote sensing satellites using radar technologies to provide unparalleled imaging capabilities.
The constellation of advanced imaging satellites (Sirb)
The Fund’s first investment will be in the development and launch of a constellation of advanced imaging satellites for the Emirates, using the SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) technology. The constellation is to be named Sirb after the Arabic term for a flock of birds and will address the critical need for better environmental and land usage monitoring, data collection and analysis to meet today’s global challenges.
The planned satellites will be able to create highly detailed and complex radar ‘images’ of land use, ice cover, surface changes and characterisation, with a wide range of scientific, civil and commercial applications.
The six-year satellite development programme will see the first satellite launch in three years, a much faster time to launch than was possible using traditional earth observation satellite design principles.
The Sirb satellites will be built through a number of partnerships between the Emirati public and private sectors together with international players, with submissions being opened for a range of system integration, development and subsystem construction opportunities as part of the constellation development, launch, operation and commercialisation plan.
Under the Emirates Lunar Mission – 2024, the UAE aims to develop a lunar rover in the UAE and send it to the moon by 2024. The aim of the mission is to study various aspects such as thermal properties of the lunar surface and the formation and components of the lunar soil. It involves carrying out a series of measurements and tests that will expand human understanding of the Moon-plasma, photoelectrons and dust particles located over the illuminated part of the lunar surface. The project aims to pave the way for discoveries that can contribute to the development of science and specialised high-precision technologies in the space sector.
Rashid, the rover
The rover, named Rashid in honour of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, former Ruler of Dubai, will land on those areas of the moon that have not been explored before. It will gather and send data and images relating to its findings. The data will create a knowledge base that will help in building a research station on the moon and in answering questions related to the formation of the solar system. The rover will try new exploration techniques which will help test the UAE’s capabilities before embarking on manned missions to Mars.
The lunar rover is expected to face many challenges, because the environment on the surface of the moon is harsher than that on Mars, and the temperature can reach minus 173 degrees Celsius. The focus of the Emirati team at MBRSC is to design a lunar rover capable of bypassing all potential obstacles while performing its mission.
A team of Emirati engineers, researchers and experts at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) have started the design of the lunar rover. The design is expected to be finalised by 2021. The rover is expected to be manufactured by 2022, tested during 2023 and launched by 2024. MBRSC will partner with an international entity for landing the lunar rover on the moon.
Space centre strategy
Announced in September 2020, the Emirates Lunar Mission is one of the key components of the new Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre Strategy 2021-2031. The strategy aims to boost the Centre’s international competitiveness, build new international knowledge partnerships and develop Emirati capabilities in the field of space exploration and space technologies.
Once completed and launched, the UAE will become the first Arab country and the fourth country in the world to successfully land on the moon after the United States of America, Russia, (formerly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and China.
The law aims to create a regulatory environment to achieve the objectives of the UAE’s National Space Policy, in addition to the following goals:
stimulating investment and encouraging private sector participation in the space sector activities
implementing safety, security and environmental measures relating to space activities
supporting the UAE’s commitment to implement the provisions of international conventions and treaties related to outer space.
Space activities regulated by the law
Article 4 of the law mentions several space activities that the law regulates. The activities are:
launch, re-enter, remove or dispose a space object from the orbit
·operate space objects and satellite communication activities
provide logistical support services in outer space
manage space data activities
collect or trade meteorites that fall in the UAE.
Requirement of a permit
According to the law, no one may own a space object, carry out or participate in space activities, or establish, use or possess related space facilities without obtaining a permit from UAE Space Agency. The law covers the role of UAE Space Agency as the federal entity in charge of regulating the space sector.
The UAE’s National Space Policy
The UAE’s National Space Policy (PDF, 250 KB) aims to build a strong and sustainable space sector that supports and protects national interests and vital industries, contributes to the diversification and growth of the economy, boosts specialized competencies, develops scientific and technological capabilities, engrains the culture of innovation and national pride, and strengthens the UAE’s status and role regionally and globally.
As per data of April 2015, THE UAE's investments in space technologies have already exceeded AED20 billion, including investments made in the satellite data and TV broadcast company - Al Yah Satellite Communication, the mobile satellite communication company - Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications and the Earth mapping and observation system - Dubai Sat.
The ‘Arab Space Pioneers’ programme aims to build Arab expertise in space science and technologies. Overseen by the UAE Space Agency, the programme will equip young Arab researchers, scientists, inventors and creative talents with skills and expertise required to lead a career in the growing space sector.
It is a three-year intensive training programme that incubates young talents and expands their career prospects in the region’s emerging space technologies.
The programme aims to invest in young Arab capacities who, in turn, can actively contribute to the global science community and drive scientific, economic and social development in their societies. It highlights the importance of investing in the multi-faceted space technology as a major driver of the future knowledge-based economy in the region.
Participants in the ‘Arab Space Pioneers’ programme will receive a number of benefits including:
a world-class specialized training in space science and technology
a fully-covered three-year residency in the UAE
access to scholarships and other financial incentives
an opportunity to build advanced satellites in the UAE
future job opportunities
an opportunity to join teams of Emirati researchers, engineers and experts in a number of space projects.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) (previously known as Emirates Institution for Advanced Science & Technology), is known for launching and placing into orbit of satellites DubaiSat 1 and DubaiSat 2, providing satellite imagery, satellite image analysis, ground station leasing and antenna hosting service. MBRSC developied also the UAE's fifth satellite - KhalifaSat.
KhalifaSat is one of the most technologically advanced remote sensing observation satellites that was manufactured by a team of Emirati engineers from MBRSC.
KhalifaSat provides high-quality detailed imagery enabling the UAE to provide competitive services all over the world in the satellite imagery sector. The images will be used in urban planning and management, which ensure effective optimisation of land use and realistic infrastructure proposals.
UAE Space Agency
The UAE has established several centres and entities to support research and development of space sciences. The UAE established the UAE Space Agency under Federal Law by Decree No. 1 of 2014. The UAE Space Agency is responsible for organising, supervising and managing the nation's space sector as well as supporting its contribution to the national economy. The agency works to raise awareness about the importance of space technologies, enhance national capabilities and encourage peaceful application of space research.
The UAE Space Agency is working on the establishment of the first space research centre in the Middle East. The centre, which will cost nearly AED100 million over five years, is the result of a strategic partnership between the UAE Space Agency, UAE University and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority represented by the ICT Fund.
The centre will act as an incubator for space research and innovation, to help individuals and universities interested to have the ability of contributing to space research.
Mission to Mars
The UAE Space Agency and MBRSC have signed an agreement to build an unmanned probe to Mars. The UAE would be the first Arab and Islamic country to be sending an unmanned spacecraft to Mars. The UAE would send the spacecraft by 2021, coinciding with the country's 50th anniversary. The UAE Space Agency would execute the mission with support from international partners.
The UAE’s Hope probe began its journey to Mars on 20 July 2020 from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre (TNSC) in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan. The aim of Emirates Mars Mission is to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and the reasons for the absence of an environment suitable for life there.
Watch this video about UAE mission to Mars
Mars Scientific City
In line with Mars 2117 Strategy, which seeks to build the first settlement on Mars in the next 100 years, the UAE will build a complex of buildings called Mars Science City.The AED 500 million city will cover 1.9 million square feet making it the largest space-simulation city ever built.
The project encompasses laboratories for food, energy and water, as well as agricultural testing and studies about food security in the future. A range of experiments will be devised to lead innovation around self-sufficiency in energy, water and food.
Mars Science City will also boast a museum that displays humanity’s greatest space achievements, including educational areas meant to engage young citizens with space and inspire a passion in them for exploration and discovery. The walls of the museum will be 3D printed, using sand from the UAE’s deserts.
Mars Science City project includes an experiential element. It will provide a viable and realistic model to simulate living on Mars. A team of scientists and astronauts will live in the simulated red planet for one year.