UAE Space Agency to announce detailed plans

The Gulf Space and Satellite Forum, opening on Tuesday, will place the UAE as region’s pioneering force in exploration.

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ABU DHABI // The UAE Space Agency will announce details of its plans and objectives on Monday on the eve of a regional space forum in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

The two-day Gulf Space and Satellite Forum, in its fifth year, is expected to attract high-ranking officials from the industry, including Nasa, to discuss prospective work with the UAE.

“We try to position the UAE as a regional leader in space, and hope in the future it will be part of the big space players,” said Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, the agency’s director general.

“So it is important for us to have high-profile space events in the UAE and this is an opportunity for us and for our people to meet the best and most famous space scientists, engineers and leaders. They will come here, interact with our own universities and government officials and this is educational for our people.”

He said the forum would serve as an opportunity for the global space community to witness the UAE’s progress and strengthen its relationship with the country.

“It is a great opportunity,” Dr Al Ahbabi said. “This conference by all means attracts some of the highest officials because the quality of the event is determined by the people who are coming.

“I think this event is one of many. We just sponsored one during Idex. This will be the second this year and there will be a third in November with the United Nations, so we are working in parallel.

“We try to increase awareness. This is also part of our PR to our people that the space agency is active and organising these events.”

Since its establishment in July last year, the agency has set up a team that has generated a number of original ideas about what it can become.

“We said we need to do our homework and go out and see what the world is doing in space and what is their strategic framework as well as how do they work and function,” he said. “We did a lengthy exercise until we came up with a strategic framework for the space agency including the vision, mission and major strategic objectives.”

Those were approved by the Government in January and will be announced on Monday by the UAE Space Agency.

“We align them with the UAE Government’s vision to the future, specifically for the space sector because our space sector is kind of leading the region in terms of size, direct investment and programmes,” Dr Al Ahbabi said.

The UAE’s space sector includes a direct investment of more than Dh20 billion, with three major space players providing space services to the UAE, among others, thanks to a third satellite covering South America expected to launch in 2017.

“We aligned our strategic objectives with what we already have and how the world is functioning in terms of global space because we are part of that,” Dr Al Ahbabi said.

“We were, of course, influenced by the Mars mission. We think it is a great opportunity and project for us and our space sector to even further develop because the awareness, interest and aspiration of this project is a great vehicle for us to develop our capabilities.”

He said the agency made it a priority to ensure the Mars mission remains on track, on time and on budget while meeting the Government’s objectives.

“There are challenges, such as limited time,” he said. “But we are very confident that we will achieve that project on time.”