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100% Emirati-made satellite to be launched in 2023

The satellite bears the initials of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE Vice-President has announced a new satellite project that will be 100 per cent Emirati-made. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said the 700kg satellite is expected to be launched in 2023.

Bearing the initials of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the MBZ-SAT will be the most advanced commercial satellite in the region for high-resolution imagery.

The 3m x 5m satellite will improve image capture resolution by more than double of what is possible now.

It will be the second satellite to be fully developed and built by a team of Emirati engineers after the KhalifaSat - which was named after the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. KhalifaSat - the first satellite to be developed in the Arab world - was launched in October 2018.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said: "The space sector is a key strategic sector that we strongly support due to its role in improving the quality of life for people and providing humanity with innovative solutions for a better future."

It is named after Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed "in honour of the achievements he has contributed to". "Our goal is to fully benefit from space science and find new opportunities to support the development of our country and the region, and also help societies overcome environmental and developmental challenges so they can prosper and progress."

MBZ-SAT will be equipped with an automated system for arranging images around the clock, ensuring that it provides the highest quality standards of satellite images intended for commercial use globally.

It is the fourth Earth observation satellite to be developed and launched by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). The images it captures will "show details within an area of less than one square metre, which will be one of the most advanced features ever".

The MBRSC will offer "rapid turnaround of captured data", sharing it with users through "an advanced system". This imagery solution can support a wide variety of uses within mapping and analysis, environmental monitoring, navigation, infrastructure management and disaster relief efforts, according to the MBRSC.

"The utility of satellite imagery in aiding and tackling natural disasters is in particular very important as they can help gauge the severity of the calamity, help plan relief efforts and aid in rebuilding efforts."

The satellite increases the downlink data transmission speed by thrice the current capacity. "The fully automated image scheduling and processing system of MBZ-SAT will also be able to produce more than 10 times the images the centre produces currently."

Addressing a virtual media briefing on Wednesday, Amer AlSayegh, Senior Director, Space Engineering Department at the MBRSC, said that around 200 Emirati engineers and scientists are associated with the project.

With a life span of at least five to seven years, the satellite would be launched into Low Earth Observation (LEO) at an altitude of 500 to 600km away from the Earth's surface. It will be orbiting the Earth from pole to pole.

"Missions can have much larger mass and weight which can go up to 1 or even 1.5 tonnes. But this weighs much less than that. Therefore, we are upgrading a lot of our technologies that were used in our previous missions.

"A simple example is that previously, we would have, say, four electronic components doing a certain number of jobs. Now we will have one small chip doing multiple functions. This gives an advantage at the time of launch. Every kilogramme that you launch will cost you up to $100,000; so lesser the mass, the more cost effective it is."