A new agreement signed between the UAE Space Agency, Virgin Atlantic and The Spaceship Company will bring Virgin Galactic space vehicles to the UAE for education, science, technology research as well as potential space tourism flights in the future. Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency and George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC) signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
Under the agreement, the parties intend to plan for a SpaceShip Two and carrier aircraft vehicle pair that will be operated from the UAE, collaborate to develop a “Center of Excellence” for microgravity research in the UAE and develop spaceship operational plans for UAE’s Al Ain airport.
The space vehicle will be utilised by customers in the UAE and region as a science platform for high-frequency space research, as well as private individuals to experience space. This dual nature will drive innovation, spur industrial development, STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), as well as promote further investments and economic growth in the UAE.
The agreement, coming shortly after Virgin Galactic’s historic commercial space flights in December 2018 and February 2019, marks an important step as the company progresses toward commercial operations.
H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, said: “This significant agreement builds on our longstanding relationship with the Virgin Group, with whom the Mubadala Investment Company jointly owns Virgin Galactic. It also reflects the advanced stage of the UAE’s space sector and our rapidly developing capabilities which, together with our partners at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, can enable the UAE to contribute to the manufacturing of space vehicles and commence spaceport operations within the next few years.
“Today’s signing also comes within the context of our recently announced National Plan for the Promotion of Space Investment, which aims to increase domestic and foreign investment in the UAE space sector. By working to develop our space ecosystem, we will be further contributing to the UAE’s business-friendly environment and ensuring that space start-ups and investors feel welcome and have access to the unique space infrastructure they require to grow and develop.”
George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic & TSC’s CEO, added: “We appreciate the UAE’s long commitment to our programme and we look forward to working with the UAE Space Agency and other partners in the UAE to push the frontiers of microgravity science, as together we inspire Emirati students and researchers to reach for the stars.”
This collaboration promises to leverage the well-established infrastructure that the city of Al Ain has built over the years, which includes entities such as Strata, Nibras, AMMROC, Al Ain Airport, and the National Space, Science and Technology Center at the UAE University.