The UAE Space Agency celebrated its third anniversary in an official ceremony in Abu Dhabi, shedding light on the Agency’s most important accomplishments since 2014. The event highlighted initiatives and programs that have contributed to wide success in its mission to organize and lead space activities in the UAE.
The ceremony was held under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency; Space Agency board members; and H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency. Also present were a number of public sector officials, as well as space sector stakeholders, national space industry companies, and local and international partners.
H.E. Dr. Ahmad Abdullah Belhoul Al Falasi acknowledged that the UAE Space Agency has become the largest agency in the region to oversee a modern space program. This has been made possible thanks to the relentless efforts of Emiratis seeking to further establish the UAE within the global space sector, among peers with advanced space programmes that are overcoming the challenges of exploring and utilising space.
H.E. further indicated that, since its inception, the Space Agency has been able to realize numerous significant achievements and successes through a clear framework and approach inspired by directives from a visionary leadership. As such, the Agency now holds a notable position among international space agencies, and enjoys the respect of regional and international space organizations.
H.E. explained that the Agency has become a model and a standard for countries seeking to launch ambitious space programs and agencies. He noted that the Agency is leading implementation of government strategies to develop an integrated system for this vital industry, which will in turn contribute to other key sectors of the national economy.
During the ceremony, a special commemorative stamp was launched in collaboration with Empost to recognize the establishment of the Agency and its achievements over the past three years. Available for three dirhams, the stamp has a space background, also picturing Mars and the Hope Probe, which will launch in 2020.
H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, said the stamp sought to highlight the Agency’s most significant successes since its establishment, as well as the institutional excellence it has demonstrated over the past three years. He added that this was a source of pride for employees and engineers at the Agency, as it immortalizes the many achievements to which they have all contributed.
H.E. Dr. Al Ahbabi explained that the stamp highlights the UAE’s ambitions towards Mars by detailing the Hope Probe, which has spearheaded national space exploration programs. The Hope Probe will study the Martian atmosphere and factors contributing to dramatic climate change, while the Mars 2117 project will see Emirati settlement of Mars within 100 years.
National and Global Achievements
The ceremony showcased the UAE Space Agency’s achievements across several fields, including the establishment of a strong foundation for the national space programme, positioning the sector internationally and acquiring global recognition, as well as global contributions to astronomy. Also highlighted was the development of a specialised workforce capable of leading the industry, organizing high-level events in the UAE and representing the local space sector abroad.
Over the past three years, the Agency has succeeded in advancing the national space sector, especially through the development of laws and regulations. In particular, this progress includes the adoption of the National Space Policy in September 2016.
This landmark achievement followed the successful launch of the National Space Strategy in 2015, in line with the UAE Vision 2021, which aims to position the UAE among the world’s leading nations by its 50th anniversary.
In terms of international positioning, the Space Agency has earned the recognition of various international space organizations and agencies around the world. To date, the Agency has signed 16 international Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) to formalize collaboration in space exploration and knowledge exchange. These include national space agencies of the US, UK, Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, Italy and Algeria, among others.
Furthermore, the Agency gained membership to leading international space organizations. Most recently, in September 2016, it joined the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). The Agency also represents the UAE on the IAF’s International Space Exploration Committee, the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems, and the Group on Earth Observation, among others.
Building on its international presence, the UAE Space Agency hosted the Global Space Congress in early 2017. Held in Abu Dhabi, the two-day conference discussed and devised approaches, policies and strategies for the global space sector, as well as outlining issues surrounding funding of space activities. The conference saw participation from 600 prominent local, regional and global space sector figures, with presentations and panel discussions by heads of government agencies, leading space-related companies, and academic experts. The wide participation underlined the leading position held by the UAE in the field of space.
The conference successfully brought together leaders of Arab agencies and authorities, underlining the important role played by the UAE in developing regional space capabilities. This comes as part of broader efforts to revive the Arab legacy and heritage of vast contributions to space sciences and astronomy.
The UAE Space Agency has made significant appearances and representations at the most notable international events, where it has showcased the unique vision and success stories coming out of the country to international decision makers and industry bodies. This includes the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the Global SatShow, MAKS-2015 in Moscow, the Paris Airshow, the Japan World Space week, Dubai Airshow and the first Science Innovation Forum in Abu Dhabi.
The Agency represented the UAE in important relevant international events, exhibitions, and conferences, to showcase its vision and success stories, and to share experiences with international decision makers, including the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the Global SatShow, MAKS-2015 in Moscow, the Paris Airshow, the Japan World Space week, Dubai Airshow and the first Science Innovation Forum in Abu Dhabi.
In November 2015, the UAE Space Agency organized a joint scientific campaign in collaboration with the UAE’s International Astronomy Center that would observe objects entering Earth’s atmosphere from outer space. This project drew international attention, and catered for further study to improve the tools used in accurately mapping trajectories of space objects such as meteors and satellites.
Agency collaboration with the International Astronomy Center also led to the development of a network to monitor space objects, comprising of three ground sites across the UAE that automatically record objects’ movements. The network is making significant contributions and benefits to the field of astronomy, as it records and maps previously unmonitored areas.
Through cooperating with a range of local and international partners and stakeholders, the Space Agency has raised the level of scientific education in the UAE, including a revised syllabus and a feasibility study on the STEM curriculum. A number of space research centers have also been developed in the UAE, most notably the National Space Science and Technology Center, a joint project between the UAE Space Agency, the TRA’s ICT Fund and UAE University. The groundbreaking center is the first of its kind in the region and will support national strategic plans for space science and technology.
The Agency also signed MoUs with eight leading UAE universities to set frameworks of cooperation in education, research, science, technology and space applications in order to support the local sector. It also offers a number of scholarships to excellent students, funding and facilitating their studies at home or abroad. Similarly, the Agency has organized summer camps to develop students’ knowledge about space, and devised a capacity building program in cooperation with prominent international partners.
The Agency organised national competitions to encourage students in the UAE to join the space industry in the future, such as Genes in Space. These exciting engagement programs have seen wide contributions and submissions from students excelling in STEM fields. In line with its mission and objectives, the Space Agency is continuously raising awareness about the importance and applications of space activities. The Agency has held regular planetary observation events that are open and free to the public, allowing them to use advanced telescopes to view Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and others. These events are attended by local professors and experts, who provide free public lectures in astronomy and space exploration.
Ahmed Ali Al Shamsi, Acting Chief Executive Officer at Thuraya said: “We want to congratulate the UAE Space Agency on completing three successful years. In this short span of time, the Agency has rendered itself a true regional leader in space, and has gained a remarkable reputation among the international space community.”
He added: “We are glad to have been involved in the process of developing UAE’s space infrastructure and to have contributed in establishing the UAE Space Agency. As a pioneer in this nation’s satellite operations, Thuraya will continue to innovate satellite services to be at the forefront of the global satellite industry and fulfil our national leaders’ vision to contribute to advancements in space technology on an international level for the benefit of humankind. In this regard, we are eager to keep collaborating with the Agency on multiple programs and events and lend support in their endeavours to increase the community’s awareness and interest in space activities, build worldwide partnerships, and strengthen UAE’s legacy in space innovations.”
Mona Al Muhairi, Chief Human Capital Officer at Yahsat, said: “Over the past three years the UAE Space Agency has propelled the UAE’s space sector, created opportunities for human capital development by investing in Emirati talent and driven interest in science, technology, and engineering. We at Yahsat would like to congratulate the UAE Space Agency on achieving these significant milestones within a very short period of time. We are looking forward to continue working alongside the UAE Space Agency as it drives the country‘s space ambitions and makes noteworthy contributions to scientific research and innovation.”
H.E. Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director General of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, congratulated the UAE Space Agency for its third anniversary, praising its accomplishments at all levels, and giving a bright image about the UAE space sector in all local, Arab, global and international forums.
Al Shaibani praised the Agency’s constructive efforts to promote the UAE’s space sector through its agreements with international space agencies and launching a sustainable space strategy that addresses the current and future development needs of the sector. He also highlighted the UAESA’s initiatives and programs that support building specialized national cadres and establishing future generation of UAE space scientists.
Al Shaibani stressed on the strong relationship between MBRSC and the UAESA, pointing out the collaboration between the two entities on the Emirates Mars Mission – Hope Mission, saying: “We are proud of our joint work with the UAESA to achieve the first Arab and Islamic mission to outer space”.