The rise of the UAE space sector

From making history as the first Arab nation to land a rover on the moon to sending an Emirati astronaut for a six-month trip to the ISS, the UAE is aiming to consolidate its position as one of the world's leading space nations.
Vijaya Cherian, Editorial Director, SatellitePro ME.

Last month, we joined in a telephone conversation with Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who is currently stationed at the International Space Station (ISS) until September 2023 – the longest an Arab has stayed in space.

Trying hard to stay on the ground as he chatted with us, Al Neyadi spoke about the awesome privileges we take for granted on earth – the ability to breathe fresh oxygen, being free of radiation while astronauts in space are continuously exposed to it, and just enjoying simple pleasures like a hot meal prepared at home.

Al Neyadi spoke about the medical research he was participating in to understand precision-based medicine for type 2 diabetes. He mentioned that some astronauts who hadn’t trained correctly would have to undergo prolonged rehabilitation back on earth to regain the full use of their muscles. Al Neyadi holds an envious position but that privilege has come at a huge cost and immense sacrifice.

On the home front, he comes from a nation that has just lost the Rashid Rover that was so lovingly put together by a team over the last few years. They were broken hearted but the Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was immediately by their side; he encouraged them and announced that we would build a second Rashid and not give up. His own resilience in the face of each challenge Dubai has encountered over the years has made him a role model for the people of this nation showing them that many sacrifices will be required of them before big dreams can be achieved.

The UAE’s collective space ambition is impressive for a nation that is barely 52 years and seeing this journey evolve in our own backyard has evoked immense respect for all regional and global entities that have had the foresight and the vision to pioneer satellite technologies and space initiatives.

This issue features stories about new developments in the satellite space; it also brings tales of those that have stepped into uncharted terrain to facilitate connectivity. Some of these companies will be at CABSAT this month to speak about developments in this space. See you there.