The United Arab Emirates will launch a navigation satellite in 2021, according to the Emirates News Agency. “The first satellite will be launched in 2021 and the second — a technologically enhanced one — the following year,” said Dr. Khaled Al Hashmi, Director of the National Space Science and Technology Centre (NSSTC) at UAE University in Al Ain.
The UAE’s navigation satellite will be the first project of Satellite Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) Centre, a collaboration formed by Tawazun Economic Council with Airbus and the NSSTC. The NSSTC was jointly established by UAE University in Al Ain, the UAE Space Agency and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ICT-Fund).
“The satellite project funded by the UAE Space Agency aims for technology demonstration and capability build-up, and not meant for adding a navigation system immediately. We try to select a certain technology, design and develop the satellite and payload here and will own the intellectually property rights,” Al Hashmi said
The new satellite is not aimed at replacing any existing GNSS, he clarified. “For us, it is a project to develop local capabilities in designing and building the satellite and payload. It is an initial work and several other countries are also trying to develop similar technologies.” He noted that a national GNSS could be used for some other purposes such as deploying drones.
Talks concerning the satnav project have been underway in the UAE for two years and a decision was reached on the heels of the successful launch of the UAE’s Hope Probe, a mission to Mars, on July 20. The Hope Probe, launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre, is staying healthy on its course and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, MBRSC, in Dubai is receiving signals as per the expectations. “This has opened new opportunities of collaboration between the UAE and global space agencies and companies,” Al Hashmi said.
“Space is a gateway to all sciences. This means more people join science and technology sector. Therefore, space missions will raise hopes about future of science and technology in the county and region,” he added.