Space is the UAE economy’s most promising new sector and can enable growth in other fields, senior officials said at an Expo 2020 Dubai forum.
Hamad Buamim, president of Dubai Chamber of Commerce, said companies are already learning how to benefit commercially from the recent plans for exploration and missions.
“There could be no better place or time for space, which is evolving, growing and set to become UAE’s most promising sector and key pillar of growth for itself and others,” he said.
He was speaking at the Space Business Forum, taking place at the Expo 2020 Dubai for Space Week on Tuesday.
“Space is very interesting for business because it is seen as the next frontier for business innovation.
"We believe there are many opportunities that lie in commercialising these activities. The question is how businesses can get involved and this is what we hope to achieve through events like this one.”
The latest figures show that the global space sector is valued at more than $423 billion and that may triple to $1.4 trillion by 2030.
In 2019, the UAE announced it had spent more than Dh22 billion on space projects, but no updated figure has been provided since then.
Private companies from around the world are getting increasingly involved in space, with businesses developing spacecraft and systems for missions beyond Earth.
Billionaires such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson have launched space tourism businesses, while more start-ups and medium companies are offering services to government space agencies.
The UAE’s new space strategy involves establishing a private space sector that creates impact on the economy.
Sarah Al Amiri, the UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and chairperson of the UAE Space Agency, said at the forum that the “sole purpose” over the next five years is to transform the UAE space industry into a global player.
The country already has several achievements to its name, including sending an Emirati astronaut to the space station in 2019, placing a spacecraft around Mars, developing locally built satellites and an upcoming lunar mission.
For its new asteroid belt and Venus exploration, the space agency will heavily involve private companies in hopes that it would boost the economy and lay the foundation for a sustainable private space industry.
“In our upcoming mission that we announced recently, exploration of the asteroid belt, we will work together with our private sector to provide that valuable know-how, experience and expertise, so that they can enter into the space race,” Ms Al Amiri said.
“A lot of the arguments are that space exploration creates valuable from a societal perspective and it creates an indirect economic value.
"How do you go about creating a direct space economy value and establishing a sector that didn't exist in a country before?
"Experience capability and capacity are the first ingredients for this, the next ingredient after utilising our planetary exploration missions, is to elevate the capabilities within the sector and design the right processes and test beds for experience and expertise.
“The next phase is entering the right market in the right sector and at the right time, becoming a global player.”
Ms Al Amiri highlighted two key areas in the UAE space sector, Earth-observation satellites and communication satellites.
She said private companies could get involved in Earth observation satellites to create an impact on other sectors from a societal perspective, such as addressing issues of climate change, enabling logistical systems, facilitate urban planning and better farming practices.
On Monday, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre launched the 'Space Ventures' programme, a launch pad for startups in the space sector to work with the centre on long-term projects.
It would help companies gain access to technology and support and receive help in communicating with regulatory agencies around the world.
The areas of partnership opportunities include communications, data storage, Internet of Things, satellite manufacture and launch, robotics, space hardware and software.
Startups that partner with Space Ventures would need to be based in the UAE.
Adnan Al Rais, programme manager of Mars 2117, said that partnering with and supporting startups would help create an impact in the space sector.
"Space Ventures will help in establishing a strong and sustainable space ecosystem that will contribute to achieving the goals of the Mars 2117 programme, which aims to establish human settlements on Mars by 2117, as well as other space programmes in the UAE," he said.
"With niche focus areas in the space field, the Space Ventures initiative provides both Mbrsc as well as private players to collaborate and capitalise on each other’s strengths and expertise.”