The UAE Space Agency has announced details of the National Space Sector Policy. The document was approved on September 4 by the Council of Ministers, headed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The policy aims to build a strong and sustainable space sector in the UAE that supports and protects national interests and related vital industries. This includes contributing to economic growth and diversification, strengthening specialized Emirati skillsets and developing scientific and hi-tech capabilities. It also seeks to nurture and grow a culture of innovation and enhance the UAE’s status on regional and global levels.
The introduction to the policy places emphasis on the UAE’s historical relationship with space, highlighting an ancestral mastery of astronomy and navigation of land and sea. The foreword also underlines the strategic vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which cemented the UAE’s limitless interest and ambition in space, noting that Sheikh Zayed had met with a Nasa delegation from the Apollo team in the 1970s.
Since that time, the UAE has managed to establish economic principles, infrastructure and Emirati capabilities that have enabled the country to contribute to deep space exploration and led it to a leading position for space activity in the region.
The policy represents a major turning point in strengthening, organizing and developing the national space sector in a sustainable manner. These efforts began in 2014 with the founding of the UAE Space Agency — the region’s first national space agency — and coincided with the UAE leadership’s announcement of its intention to explore Mars and its atmosphere. The UAE Mars mission will launch in 2020.
The document outlines core principles for the space sector, which fall in line with the UAE’s vision and strategic planning across other sectors. Space sector activities will be used to provide a better quality of life for all UAE citizens, as well as support national interests by providing security and improving crisis and disaster responses.
The principles within the policy also cover economic growth and diversification through continued development of space sector capabilities. In addition, the policy calls for strengthening the cooperation between government and private sectors on a local level, and establishing mutually beneficial international partnerships that adhere to international laws and treaties.
The policy compiles the UAE’s goals and ambitions for space sector activity, including support for key industries and the development of a sustainable, competitive and diverse commercial space industry. Other goals include conducting space missions that will increase scientific knowledge, developing technologies and national capabilities and driving innovation. The policy also aims to promote a stable and sustainable space environment that supports commercial and government space activities.
The national policy identifies the basic enabling capabilities necessary for realizing its aims. These include an effective and appealing regulatory environment, continued outreach that highlights the importance of space activity, preparing Emiratis for specialisation in the space sector and effective management of satellites in orbit. Other enabling capabilities include innovative state-run science and technology programs, cooperation and collaboration on national, regional and global levels, financial support and appropriate investments, in addition to supporting infrastructure.
The document also provides the relevant authorities with instructions for supporting space sector development. These directives cover three main areas of space activity: national activities, business activities and activities related to space science, technology and exploration.
Instructions also include supporting national security and primary sectors and industries, which will harness space technologies to improve daily life. There are also mandates to prepare Emirati experts in space science and engineering, launch space programs, diversify the economy and develop new markets, in addition to building a sustainable and competitive commercial space sector, and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.
The document includes follow-up measures to ensure that the policy is successfully implemented, as well as guaranteeing the roles of the UAE Space Agency and key stakeholders. The policy has outlined the success factors that need to be implemented in order to lead an effective national space sector. The UAE Space Agency will look toimplement this policy, through a strategy and action plan, into activities, projects and initiatives that are of priority to the country.
Other elements identified in the policy include coordinating the efforts and participation of involved parties, conducting periodic and comprehensive evaluations of the sector to identify gaps and opportunities, as well as regularly reviewing and updating the policy.
Dr Khalifa Al Romaithi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, said: “The national space sector policy stems from the leadership’s vision to become a leading nation in space sciences and to reach Mars on the state’s fiftieth anniversary.”
Al Romaithi added: “The global space sector is experiencing significant growth and change, along with an increase in space applications and technology development. There has also been an increase in the number of states that are seeking to capitalize on outer space opportunities. In light of these ongoing changes and developments, a national policy was required to ensure effective management and development, as well as making proper use of national capabilities and opportunities.”
Al Romaithi explained that the national space policy clarifies the UAE government’s approach, ambitions and priorities for the space sector.
He also noted that the policy has been prepared in cooperation with a number of other stakeholders in the government sector, national companies in the private sector, academic foundations and research centers and international companies operating out of the UAE. Experts from various legislative and operational disciplines also contributed. Together, the common objectives, responsibilities and powers of all the parties involved in the space sector were outlined, and implementation priorities were identified in accordance with governmental and international best practices.
Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, stated that the agency’s efforts over the coming period will be aimed at completing the regulatory framework for the national space sector by implementing its strategy. Through legislation, the Space Agency will also contribute to enhancing the role of the sector in supporting initiatives and programs related to security, politics, economics and social activities.
Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director General at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), stressed that: “The national space policy has set the foundations for the future of the space technology sector, in line with the visions, plans and strategies for the UAE.”
Al Shaibani added that MBRSC supports the directives of the policy in establishing a strong and sustainable space sector, pointing out that: “The center is playing a key role in the development of a national space sector characterized by high standards, so that the UAE achieves advanced and competitive rankings in the world in the field of industry, technology and space research.”
Al Shaibani added: “The center’s strategy continues to attract national cadres and to develop capabilities in the space industry, as well as supporting educational institutions across the UAE in developing new academic programs that keep up with the needs of science, technology and space.”
He also stressed how much emphasis the center places on the efficient implementation of its existing projects, most notably The Emirates Mars Mission (Hope Probe) and KhalifaSat, among others.
Al Shaibani concluded by saying: “The center continues to launch new satellite projects, and to develop innovative technology that serves man and humanity, either through its efficient uses in overall development plans or through its role in disasters and crises.”