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Everyone is part of the space economy: Space Foundation COO Shelli Brunswick

Speaking on the “Women in Space” panel at the Dubai Airshow, Brunswick commented that with space catering to so many verticals, there was opportunity for people from all walks of life.
Space Foundation COO Shelli Brunswick

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 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 space industry were involved.

Speaking in one of the panel discussions, Space Foundation COO Shelli Brunswick said: “Space has a place for everyone and everyone is part of the space economy.”

Brunswick said: “If you’re in the space business, you’re in every business – the low hanging fruit is health, telecoms and the EO. But there are others and almost every vertical.”

Speakers from the UAE Space Agency included Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and Chairman HE Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency HE Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director of Space Policy and Regulations at the UAE Space Agency Naser Al Rashedi, Space Science Expert at the UAE Space Agency Dr. Fatima Yahya ALAydaroos and Heyam Al Blooshi, Design Engineer at the UAE Space Agency.

The conference kicked off with an opening keynote by HE Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, who highlighted the role of women in the development of the space sector. HE 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.”

HE Dr. Al Falasi participated in a panel entitled ‘Education and the role of STEM in Space – capacity building for industry creation’. HE Dr. Al Falasi stressed the importance of enriching and investing in local talent for developing space-related capabilities and said: “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.”

HE 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 discussed the role of gender diversity in driving the sustainability of the space sector, which is crucial for the growth of the sector.

HE 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 organisations, 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.”

HE 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.

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.

“We say sky is the limit. But in space, sky is the start,” Naser Al Rashedi said. He also said: “We came up with space investment promotion plan and providing legislation framework to encourage innovation and creating incubators – Emirati-owned CryptoLabs, Starburst, alongside creating space policy and regulation.”

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.

During the panel discussion, ALAydaroos explained how developing space technologies and having proper infrastructure are essential for tackling different environmental challenges.

Dr. michaelyn Thomas, Head of Affordability at Virgin Orbit, said, “Diversity is very important to any innovation because all innovation is diverse.”

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 US Space and Rocket Center’s renowned Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

Dubai Airshow is one of the largest and most important aerospace events in the world. It provides an exhibition showcasing the latest and greatest in military, general and commercial aviation.