Yahsat satellite is cleared for launch

Yahsat, the satellite communications company owned by Mubadala, is set to launch its first spacecraft on March 30.

An Ariane 5 rocket will launch the Yahsat 1A and Intelsat New Dawn satellites at the Arianespace facility from French Guiana. AFP
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Abu Dhabi's outer space ambitions will reach new heights when the first commercial satellite developed by Yahsat lifts off this month.

The rocket launch is scheduled on March 30 at 3am UAE time, allowing the "Y1A" satellite to beam down television and telecommunications services to more than 20 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Yahsat, which is owned by Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, plans to launch a second satellite in the second half of this year.

The total investment of the two satellites is about US$1.2 billion (Dh4.4bn), and each is expected to stay in orbit for about 15 years.


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"The launch of Yahsat's first satellite is a fantastic achievement and a moment of pride for all involved," said Jassem al Zaabi, the chief executive of Yahsat.

"By expanding our satellite communication capabilities, we are supporting the development of an advanced information and communications infrastructure that will drive economic diversification and social progress across the whole region."

Yahsat plans to launch the satellite aboard the Ariane 5 ECA rocket at the Arianespace facility in Kourou, French Guiana.

The satellite was built in partnership with EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space. The rocket's payload will also include the Intelsat New Dawn satellite, operated by South Africa's New Dawn Satellite Company.

Mission control for the Yahsat satellites is located in Al Falah, a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi. Following the launch, a team of UAE nationals will control the satellite in space, ensuring it does not deviate from its set orbit. Once the satellites are in orbit, Yahsat will offer commercial television and broadband internet services as well as communications tools for the defence sector. The company says it will provide further details on the cost of its offerings once the satellite is fully operational.

The target market for Yahsat's services is within remote locations beyond the reach of traditional telecoms operators. Recent studies showthere will be about 600,000 satellite broadband subscribers in the Middle East by 2015.

According to recent UN figures, 77 per cent of Afghanistan residents live in rural areas, along with 74 per cent of Yemenis, 58 per cent of Egyptians and one third of Iraqis. Only 15 per cent of the UAE's population resides outside urban centres. "We'll have that bandwidth, we'll have that platform, but now it depends on just like any other telecom operator, be it either satellite or fibre [optic], how you package your products and services," Mr al Zaabi told The National last month.

Yahsat has already signed commercial deals with 25 licensed operators across the Middle East and Africa. It has also signed a 15-year agreement with the UAE Armed Forces to provide an "integrated satellite communications network and control centre".