The most sophisticated satellite built by the UAE was successfully launched from an island off the southern tip of Japan this morning, in a new milestone for the country's space programme.
KhalifaSat, the first satellite designed, tested and manufactured entirely by Emirati engineers, took off shortly after 8am UAE time.
The launch was hailed by the UAE's leaders as an "unprecedented Emirati achievement".
A team of engineers from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre travelled to Tanegashima island, about 40 kilometres south of the Japanese mainland, to monitor the launch.
There was relief all round at the Tanegashima Space Centre 10 minutes after blast off, as the satellite soared out of view, when it was announced that the flight path was "proceeding as expected". Almost two hours later, KhalifaSat successfully separated from the launch rocket, beginning its orbit around the Earth.
The announcement was made to cheers from the Japanese engineers at the space station.
KhalifaSat was designed and built at the Space Technology Laboratories, at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.
Its role will be to beam high-quality images to the ground station in the emirate. The pictures will help governments and private companies across the globe with climate change, disaster relief, urban planning and more.
On Sunday night, a spectacular moving image was projected onto the Burj Khalifa to celebrate the launch. It displayed the message: “100% Emirati-developed satellite, from space to serve Earth.”
Ahead of the launch, Amer Al Sayegh, the KhalifaSat project manager, said the project had helped the UAE create partnerships across the globe.
“It’s not only the technical work that we are doing with our Japanese colleagues. It’s the bonding of two teams and two cultures working together for the same vision," he said.
"The UAE now has a highly qualified team equipped with knowledge, expertise and strong teamwork for the new missions for the UAE."
The launch, which was streamed live on the internet, involved the satellite being loaded on to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H2A rocket.
Attention will now turn to an even more ambitious project — to send a probe to Mars by 2021 to coincide with the UAE's 50th year. As part of a 100-year plan, it is hoped that a city will be established on the Red Planet by the year 2117.
The UAE plans to send its first two astronauts to the International Space Station next year.
KhalifaSat launch: UAE rulers hail 'unprecedented Emirati achievement'
Former Nasa chief: UAE's space programme is 'helping humanity'
Sheikh Mohammed praises pioneering work of Emirati engineers on satellite project