The United Arab Emirates has a space agency. This may come as a surprise to you as historically the UAE is not the first country we think of when we think space. But, in recent years, the UAE has expressed a strong ambition to conquer the final frontier.
In 2000 the UAE became the registration country for the satellite Thuraya 1. It could be said that Thuraya 1 was a project started 30 years earlier, when (in 1972) the UAE became a member of the International Telecommunications Union. Thuraya 1 is still in orbit but has since been joined by Dubai Sat 1, Dubai Sat 2, and Yahsat 1 and Yahsat 2. A year after Dubai Sat 2 launched the UAE created The UAE Space Agency, a body to regulate the country’s space industry as well as to support the development of commercial interests.
Aerospace is important to the UAE as it moves further away from its economic dependence on hydrocarbons. Al Ain, a city inland from main Abu Dhabi metropolis, is home to Mubadala’s aerospace free zone. The Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park is home to Piaggio Aerospace, Sanad, Strata, and more where the manufacture of high-tech aircraft companies takes place. Mubadala also works with Airbus and Boeing. Further north, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise manages a portfolio of 78 aircraft valued at approximately $4 billion.
The UAE has never been shy to seek advice from other countries. This open approach to education has seen advancements in technology and infrastructure not befitting a country of its age. The UAE was formed in 1971, as a country it’s younger than many of our readers. Yet its openness to innovation and ideas stands it high above many of its peers.
BAE Systems in the UK already hosts Emiratis as interns as part an agreement with Mubadala. UAE students have attended the University of Leicester’s Senior Space School programme. And, in early 2016 the UK and UAE Space Agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
The UAE is serious about its aerospace ambitions. It’s equally serious about working with UK expertise to achieve them.