'Serious' space programme lures leading US firm to UAE

NanoRacks, which offers space services on a commercial basis, to open Abu Dhabi office

An airlock manufactured by NanoRacks.
An airlock manufactured by NanoRacks.

A world-leading space company is opening its first office in Abu Dhabi after being lured to the UAE by the country’s ambitious cosmic exploration programme.

NanoRacks, a Houston firm which offers commercial private satellite launch and research services, is to open a base on Al Maryah Island, as part of the new Hub71 initiative which is designed to offer a home to technology companies.

The company was involved with a partnership with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in which Emirati students were offered the chance to have their experiments in microgravity carried out in space.

The company chief executive, Jeffrey Manber, said the UAE’s space plans, which hit a major milestone this week when Hazza Al Mansouri became the first Emirati in space, had helped persuade NanoRacks to move into Abu Dhabi.

“They are serious about becoming a space-faring nation,” Mr Manber told The New York Times. “I also like the fact, to be candid, that they comfortably work with Russia, they comfortably work with China and they comfortably work with the United States and the European Space Agency. I think that is a model for the future.”

The company is also attracted by what it sees as a growing space sector in the UAE and the wider region, and will offer comprehensive technical support to customers.

The Hub71 initiative is aiming to become home to over 100 technology start-ups by 2021, with the plan forming part of Abu Dhabi's wider Ghadan 21 economic reform package designed to lessen the emirates' economic dependence on oil.

Last November, NanoRacks helped launch a CubeSat, a type of miniature satellite which was developed and built by students at Khalifa University. NanoRacks has also partnered with the UAE on a project to grow an Emirati palm tree in space.

“The teams in the UAE, especially the Space Agency, have been excellent partners as NanoRacks develops in the region, and we’re beyond excited to grow with the nation as space exploration becomes a part of the local DNA,” said Allen Herbert, the firm’s vice president of business development and strategy.

Mahmoud Adi, CEO of Hub71. Courtesy Hub71
Mahmoud Adi, CEO of Hub71. Courtesy Hub71

“NanoRacks mission is to make the wonders of space accessible to everyone around the world, and we can’t wait to explore the universe with the incredible institutions, agencies, companies, and students in the region.

“Our work in the region is just getting started. Over the next few months, we plan to have a lot of exciting announcements, including new customers, partnerships, and programmes.”

Among the companies which have already announced joining Hub71 is WeWork, a US office space rental firm which plans to assist tech companies and academics early next year.

“It’s very exciting to have our first US space tech company on board,” said Mahmoud Adi, head of Hub71.

“Hub71 aims to be home to globally enduring tech companies like NanoRacks who are eager to capitalise on the regions’ commercial opportunities.”

Published: September 26, 2019 05:03 PM


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