MBZ-Sat: UAE to launch region's most powerful imaging satellite in 2024

It is designed to be three times more powerful than its predecessor KhalifaSat

The MBZ-Sat satellite is expected to be launched into space next year. Photo: MBRSC
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The UAE is preparing to launch the region's most advanced imaging satellite into space next year.

MBZ-Sat, named after President Sheikh Mohamed, has been in development at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai for years.

The 800-kilogram satellite will be carried into orbit on a SpaceX ride-share mission, on board a Falcon 9 rocket.

"Around 14 years ago, MBRSC launched its first Earth observation satellite, with environmental monitoring as one of its key objectives," Salem Al Marri, director general of the space centre, tweeted on Monday.

"Today, we are developing MBZ-Sat, which will be the region's most advanced high-accuracy, high-resolution imaging satellite.

"It will monitor environmental changes, water quality and assist in agricultural development, among other purposes.

"Our key objective is to strengthen the role of the space sector in achieving the environmental strategies of the UAE, and preserve our planet and its resources."

MBRSC hopes to support the domestic space industry through this mission, with 90 per cent of the mechanical and 50 per cent of the electronic modules for MBZ-Sat built in the Emirates.

The space centre has worked with five private enterprises in the country to manufacture the satellite – aerospace manufacturing company Strata, engineering solutions company EPI, management consultancy Rockford Xellerix, Halcon, a company that manufactures precision-guided systems and Falcon Group, an inventory management company.

MBZ-Sat is expected to be three times more powerful than KhalifaSat, an Emirati-built satellite operating since 2018.

It has a fully automated image scheduling and processing system that will allow it to produce 10 times more images than the space centre currently does.

The downlink data transmission speed will be three times faster.

"With Strata Manufacturing, we are developing the structure," Mr Al Marri said.

"While with Falcon, we are working on the mechanical elements. With Rockford Xellerix, we are developing the cabling harness.

"The aluminium used in MBZ-Sat is also made in the UAE and is the first aluminium produced globally using solar power. It was developed in partnership with Emirates Global Aluminum and Gulf Extrusions."

The first UAE Earth-observation satellites were DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2, both built by Emiratis and South Koreans.

Those two projects helped MBRSC engineers build the skills needed to develop domestically built satellites.

Now, there is also a greater focus in the country to help boost the private space sector.

Government agencies such as MBRSC and the UAE Space Agency have been trying to attract more companies' involvement in projects.

The UAE Space Agency has launched a Dh3 billion ($816 million) fund to support start-ups and medium-sized businesses.

Space-dedicated economic zones are being set up in the country to help businesses set up operations.

The MBR Explorer spacecraft for the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt – the country's most challenging space mission to date – will be built mostly by private companies.

Two UAE companies have already been awarded contracts to develop a small lander that will be deployed by the spacecraft.

Updated: June 06, 2023, 12:16 PM