ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates on Monday laid out a strategic framework for a newly produced space agency that aims to integrate various arms for the Gulf federation’s burgeoning space industry. The seven-state federation, perhaps most commonly known for its oil wealth and extravagant attractions like Dubai’s palm-shaped islands and the record-breaking Burj Khalifa skyscraper, is fast establishing itself while the Arab globe’s leader within the space sector.

Agency Chairman Khalifa Mohammed Thani al-Rumaithi stated the space industry will help diversify the country’s economy and create highly trained jobs for a growing youth population.  The UAE Space Agency, created final 12 months by presidential decree, aims to modify and support the industry, which includes existing Earth-orbiting satellite programs and plans for a mission to Mars in 2020.

“The United Arab Emirates is seeking to ensure its status as a spacefaring nation,” he told a gathering at a meeting rolling out the federal body in the capital, Abu Dhabi, that showcased models of Emirati satellites and waiters serving space-themed canapés, like hummus in steel squeeze tubes. Space technology is certainly one of a few high-tech industries the OPEC user is championing as a way to broaden an economy still heavily influenced by oil.

Abu Dhabi’s Al Yah Satellite Communications Co., better known as Yahsat, hopes to place its third satellite into orbit in 2016. Its first communications satellite was launched aboard an Arianespace rocket from French Guiana in 2011. Among the initiatives outlined Monday were plans for an academic space program involving Yahsat, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute and U.S. aerospace firm Orbital ATK, as well as the establishment of a space research center.

Thuraya, an Emirates-based satellite phone operator, had been in charge of the country’s first commercial satellite, launched in 2000. The Emirates’ first government-backed satellite, an Earth-observation satellite known as DubaiSat-1, blasted into orbit atop a Russian rocket launched from Kazakhstan in 2009. It and the follow-up DubaiSat-2 were collaborations between Emirati engineers and a South Korean satellite firm.

Earlier this month, the Dubai-based team behind the Emirati mission to Mars announced that its probe will circle the planet studying its atmosphere, including modifications over some time how surface features such as for example volcanoes, deserts and canyons affect it.  Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed container Rashid Al Maktoum said earlier this month that he hoped the probe, named “Hope,” would provide motivation for the Arab world. It’s first Mars mission being attempted by any Arab country. Some 75 Emirati engineers are currently working on the Mars task, and officials hope to increase that number by 2020. The Emirates has pursued other space-related projects.

Aabar Investments, which is backed by the Abu Dhabi government, is an integral investor in Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.  It consented to pump $280 million into the space startup in 2009 in exchange for a third of this business, and soon after raised its stake after agreeing to extra funding for the development of a satellite launch program. Its initial deal called for the growth of a spaceport in Abu Dhabi.

The space agency’s director general, Mohammed Nasser al-Ahbabi, told The Associated Press that the Virgin Galactic investment does not fall underneath the scope of their agency for now, but he welcomed further investment in the industry.


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