UAE and Indian scientists to discuss nano satellites and Mars mission plans

Countries likely to work closely on Emirates' landmark mission to the Red Planet

Sarah Amiri, deputy project manager of the UAE's planned Mars mission, talks about the project named Hope in July 2017. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
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Nano satellites that are cheap and simpler to launch and the landmark Emirates Mars Mission are two areas of collaboration UAE and Indian space officials will discuss in the coming months.

An upcoming meeting in Dubai will identify areas for collaboration and examine recommendations made when a working group of engineers, scientists and officials last talked in December.

"We are on the right track," said K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, speaking to The National in Bangalore on Monday.

“We are ready to help and want to work together to strengthen our ties. Remote satellite sensing, nano satellite development, satellite navigation can be taken further, discussed and the ideas crystallised.”

The UAE plans to launch the Hope space probe in 2020, part of the broader Emirates Mars Mission.

The UAE and India have been looking at opportunities in space exploration for the past few years.

The two nations agreed to promote space cooperation during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE in 2015.

Senior officials from the UAE Space Agency led by Khalifa Al Rumaithi, then chairman of the agency, visited the headquarters of India’s space agency later that year. They also toured the satellite testing centre and the control centre from where India’s 2013 Mars probe project was launched.

An agreement for use of space technology for peaceful purposes was signed a year later in New Delhi.


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UAE scientists and engineers could in the future receive training at institutes in India such as the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Centre for Space Science Technology Education and the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing.

“We can link them to institutions. This is a possibility that can be worked on and explored,” said PG Diwakar, ISRO’s scientific secretary who headed eight-member Indian side of the joint working group in the December talks.

“The group looked at six or seven areas like application of technology, training, it could be launching of small satellites for the UAE or space exploration. Now the UAE has to decide which area is a priority for them.”

In a cementing of ties, a former ISRO chairman and the man behind India’s Mars mission, K Radhakrishnan, will join the advisory board of the UAE Space Agency.

He will speak at the World Government Summit next week about the country’s experience with the Mars Orbiter Mission that is examining the planet’s atmosphere, surface features and mineralogy.

Isro’s indigenous low cost space ventures, home-grown technology and components hit global headlines when it became only the fourth space agency after the United States, Russia and Europe to successfully send probes to orbit or land Mars.

With the 2014 mission, India became the first Asian country to orbit the Red Planet. This was achieved on a budget of 4.5billion rupees ($74million) almost a tenth of the amount that US space agency NASA spent on sending the Maven orbiter to Mars.

India’s space team also sent a record in February last year on the commercial launch of 104 satellites on one rocket, breaking a Russian record of 37.

The UAE’s Nayif-1 nanosatellite was among the satellites launched then.

India’s track record of working on successful missions on a small budget is an advantage to the partnership, according to Indian scientists.

“For five decades we have worked to be self-reliant in building and launching satellites,” Mr Sivan said.

“It will be a pleasure to work with the UAE to help its space programme.”