UAE aims to create a private space sector, minister says

Sarah Al Amiri says US model where private sector supports space exploration could be replicated

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The UAE's space strategy involves creating a vibrant private sector with local companies helping to boost the space economy, a government minister said.

Sarah Al Amiri, chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency and Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, said the American model where the private sector supported space exploration could be replicated here.

Speaking on the second day of the World Government Summit, Ms Amiri said laws that would make it easier for companies to operate from the Emirates were needed.

Last year, the UAE became the first country in the Middle East to pass a space law. The legislation aims to drive investment and increase participation from the private sector globally.

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Our first advent into planetary exploration is to transfer and expedite the transfer of know-how and knowledge into the space sector of the UAE

“Our first advent into planetary exploration is to transfer and expedite the transfer of ... knowledge into the space sector of the UAE,” Ms Al Amiri said.

"What we're currently designing and developing is how do you transfer that on to [the] creation of a private sector, first for Earth observation [and] then, hopefully, jumping into what the US has done successfully, which is allowed for [the] private sector to exist or provided a value proposition for the private sector to exist and aid exploration."

Nasa uses its partnerships with private companies to make the country's space programme more sustainable.

Through its partnership with SpaceX, it recently began to launch astronauts into space from the US again.

Public and private sector partnerships in the UAE have also started.

epa08999312 UAE's Minister of State for Advanced Technology Sarah al-Amiri speaks during the event of the arrival of the Hope Probe to Mars orbit at Burj Plaza, in front of the world's tallest building of Burj Khalifa, in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 09 February 2021. The Emirates Mars Mission Hope Probe is the first planetary mission led by an Arab-Islamic country and the space probe is to study the Martian atmosphere.  EPA/ALI HAIDER

The UAE Space Agency teamed up with Virgin Galactic to launch space tourism flights from the UAE. In 2019, the agency signed an agreement with Al Ain Airport to use their facilities as a spaceport.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre teamed up with UAE-based Strata to develop parts for the MBZ satellite.

The centre previously contracted privately owned companies outside the country, but now partnerships with those operating locally will help to boost the space economy.

“The entire region is a new entrant, especially when it comes to being a player in the private sector, either in designing systems or in producing data,” Ms Al Amiri said.

“So, the first [step] is to elevate the demand for space products and services and at the same time to build an understanding of what other sectors could use products and services from space.

"The other aspect is to also capitalise on small satellites. With the ease of access and lower cost to space, you are able to develop and streamline the development of small spacecraft for various uses. That, then, becomes the second method by which you are enabling companies and designing of space systems."

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