SPACE

Abu Dhabi 2017 | AEROSPACE | B2B

The space industry in the UAE will be a key driver of the future knowledge economy, and continued focus on developing capacities and technology is key.

Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi
DR. ENG. MOHAMMED NASSER AL AHBABI
Director General
UAE Space Agency
Masood M. Sharif Mahmood
MASOOD M. SHARIF MAHMOOD
CEO
Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat)

What have been some of your milestones in 2016?

HE Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi The UAE Space Agency was established in 2014 to create a national plan for the development of the country's space industry. This included establishing a strategic framework for the agency and the national sector as a whole, which was to be objective driven and focused. We started with a proposal for a national space policy by putting different space planning documents together and, following an extensive review process, launched the first space policy in the Middle East in 2016. This was a milestone not only because of the complexities involved with establishing a national space policy, but also because of its potential to impact a wide range of sectors such as education, business, free zones, and the government itself.

Masood M. Sharif Mahmood 2016 has been a great year for us; we have signed new partnerships and prepared for the launch of our third satellite, Al Yah 3. Some of the key milestones include signing a multi-year capacity agreement with Eutelsat to provide its Broadband for Africa venture access to high-performance commercial Ka-band capacity for broadband services across Sub-Saharan Africa; a long-term, multimillion-dollar partnership agreement to provide Talia's customers in the Middle East and Africa with a tightly integrated offering and a tailor-made solution to fit the changing demands of their customers; kickstarting our Brazil business ahead of the launch this year with multiple wholesale agreements with leading ISPs such as Telespazio; and making strong advances in developing our aero-mobility platform in partnership with Etihad Airlines.

How will a national space policy transform the landscape for the industry and attract wider audiences?

MNAA The benefit of having a national space policy is that it will foster a positive investment framework in the UAE, supported by our own knowledge and expertise. We want to elevate investor confidence so they come here and invest in the UAE. We are currently working on a Space Law too, for which we just finished the first draft. This law contains important elements for building an attractive environment for international investors and establishes a legal framework to prepare the market for tomorrow.

MMSM We, as a nation, ventured into space a little over a decade ago. Investments in space have promoted innovation and research in the UAE and enabled us to move toward a knowledge-based, productive, and competitive economy. The UAE is pursuing its 2021 Vision, which aims to place innovation, science, and technology at the center of the economy and Yahsat is at the cutting edge of the UAE's space ambitions with existing infrastructure in space, and plans to continue to expand it. We are working closely with the UAE government, the Space Agency, and industry players to enhance the UAE's role in space and the satellite industry.

What have been your main contributions to developing R&D in the sector?

MNAA Our strategy is to promote R&D culture. This of course involves universities but is also open to any institution that is interested in space. We have already managed to establish a research center at the UAE University in Al Ain, serving as a tool to bring students from the university as well as ideas from the outside to develop hands-on projects such as small satellites. We also supported the establishment of a research center at the Masdar Institute with YahSat, which offers the first MSc in space systems and technology in the GCC. We also have an international advisory committee with nine international space experts from different countries who come every year to the Space Agency to check on our progress. Additionally, we regularly collaborate with international partners and have signed agreements with most space agencies around the globe. We are working closely with education institutions to ensure that space science is introduced into school curriculums, and we continue to inspire the next generation of space pioneers.

MMSM Today, the aerospace and space industries in the UAE are key drivers of the future economy. The UAE's investment in space technologies has already exceeded AED20 billion, including fixed satellite communications, TV broadcasting, mobile satellite services, and earth observation and data gathering systems. Yahsat continues to support the UAE's space ambitions through investment in research and development. For example, we invest in the development of our team, alongside Orbital ATK, through on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs for Yahsat engineers. Furthermore, to keep the space industry attractive to the youth of UAE, we collaborated with Masdar Institute and Orbital ATK to develop a specially designed master's program.