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UAE prepares to launch navigation satellite in 2021

The UAE is set to launch two satellites over the next two years, including a navigation satellite in 2021.

“The first satellite will be launched in 2021 and the second – a technologically enhanced one – the following year,” Dr. Khaled Al Hashmi, director of the National Space Science and Technology Centre (NSSTC) in UAE University in Al Ain told news agency WAM.

The NSSTC was jointly established by the UAE University in Al Ain, the UAE Space Agency and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ICT-Fund).

The UAE’s navigation satellite will be the first project of Satellite Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) Centre, a collaboration between Tawazun Economic Council, Airbus and the NSSTC.

Al Hashmi said that the satellite project is funded by the UAE Space Agency and aims to showcase the country’s technology capabilities rather than replacing existing Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

“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,” Al Hashmi noted.

“We try to select a certain technology, design and develop the satellite and payload here and will own the intellectually property rights. And if we are successful, the project can be expanded further.”

There are four main types of Global Navigation Satellite Systems such as Global Positioning System (GPS) of the US, GLONASS of Russia, Galileo developed within the EU and BeiDou of China, besides two regional systems – the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) of Japan and the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) which was later given the operational name Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC).

The second project of the AIT Centre is the development of 813 Arab Satellite, announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“We have almost completed its first phase called the mission concept,” Al Hashmi said.

“We have the initial configuration of the satellite. We will soon move to the second phase. We have already constituted the local team and we are selecting partners from other Arab countries participating in the project.”

The UAE initiated the creation of the first Arab Space Coordination Group in 2019 which comprises of 10 Arab countries working on the 813 Satellite funded by the UAE Space Agency and will be the first satellite in the region to region collecting atmospheric data on climate change.

The countries involved in the project include UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco and Egypt, with the UAE leading the organization.

On July 20, the country’s Hope Probe successfully lifted off from the Tanegashima Island in Japan.

The culmination of a six-year effort of 200 Emirati engineers and researchers, the Hope probe is expected to enter the red planet’s orbit in February 2021.

In June, the United Nations for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the UAE Space Agency reached an agreement on Sunday to set up a project office in Abu Dhabi.

More than 80 countries have launched satellites since 1957, of which over 2,500 are currently operational.