This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 8/7/2019


The UAE is committed to establishing itself as a regional hub for civil and commercial space activities it created the UAE Space Agency (UAESA) in 2014, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in 2015 in Dubai.  There is currently an initiative underway by the UAESA and the MBRSC to build an unmanned probe spacecraft that will orbit Mars and study its climate and atmosphere.  The intent is to launch this spacecraft in 2020, and have it arrive in Mars orbit by 2021 in time to mark the 50th anniversary of the UAE federation. 

The UAESA – which directs UAE national space programs, creates space policy and regulation, and supports the development of UAE engineers and scientists – is expected to generate significant benefits to the country’s economy and human capital.  In October 2014, the agency gained membership in the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, making the UAE the first Arab country to join.  It also signed collaboration agreements with NASA, Japan, and China, and memoranda of understanding with the U.K., Italy, and Russia. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, founded the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in 2015 when it was integrated with the existing Emirates Institution for Advanced Science & Technology (EIAST).  According to the editor of Space Alert, Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, in addition to the Mars Mission, the center is focused on building remote-sensing satellites with the objective of creating a fully autonomous and indigenous capability to design and manufacture satellites in the UAE the center has scientific laboratories and research facilities based in Dubai. 

In March 2016, the UAESA and MBRSC announced that they would use a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries rocket for the Mars mission.  Mitsubishi will launch the UAE’s unmanned probe “Hope” into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Centre in July 2020.  The Japanese company was chosen from 10 possible launch service providers across the globe.  

Abu Dhabi-based Khalifa University opened its new Spacecraft Platform for Astronautic and Celestial Emulation (SPACE) laboratory in 2015.  The SPACE lab is equipped with special Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), robots and sensing systems that help to mimic actual conditions in space.  The lab provides students with an opportunity to conduct mission-oriented research, and get hands on experience in conducting experiments for sensing, guidance, dynamics, and control of aerospace and space operations in a suitable environment. 

In May 2015, the UAESA announced its plans to open the Middle East’s first space research center in Al Ain. The $27 million center – funded by the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (represented by the ICT Fund) – will be an incubator for development and innovation at the federal level.  UAESA will also coordinate with several organizations on the project, including the Emirates Mobile Observatory.  The center will serve university students as well as space operators, and will be open to people from outside the university as well.  According to the UAE newspaper “Gulf News”, the center will serve as the main headquarters to support UAE’s unmanned Hope Probe for the 2020 Mars mission.  One of the goals for the center is to attract and produce homegrown Emirati men and women space scientists.  It is expected that the new facility will create an estimated 150 jobs for Emirati scientists and engineers who will be needed to work on the Mars mission. 

The UAE has already launched and is controlling a number of satellites. 
Yahsat, a subsidiary of the UAE Government-owned Mubadala Development, offers a range of communication services including voice, internet and television.  Yahsat currently has two satellites in orbit and launched a third in 2018, the Al Yah 3 satellite.   Al Yah 3 will extend Yahsat’s broadband services to 19 countries across Brazil and Africa. 
The MBRSC operates several satellites: 

  • DubaiSat-1 was the first fully UAE-owned satellite.  It was launched in 2009 by EIAST, which, as noted above, was rolled into MBRSC in 2015

  • DubaiSat-2 blasted off in 2013 

KhalifaSat, a remote sensing for Earth observation, was launched in October of 2018. requirement KhalifaSat is the UAE’s most technologically advanced imaging satellite, was 100 percent developed by Emirati engineers as part of the MBRSC’s strategic initiative to inspire innovation and technological advancement, and to increase sustainable development in the UAE.  The UAE Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) in collaboration with Satrec Initiative (SI), a South Korean satellite manufacturing company, oversee the KhalifaSat program.

UAE’s Thuraya, private company with investors from the United States, U.K., and the Middle East, launched its first mobile telecommunication satellite, Thuraya-1, in 2000.

2016 NASA and UAESA Framework Agreement 
In June 2016, NASA and UAESA signed a framework agreement to cooperate on aeronautics research and the exploration and to use airspace and outer space for peaceful purposes.  The scope of the agreement covers space science, operational Earth observation and Earth science, aeronautics, space operations and exploration, education, technology, and safety and mission assurance. 

Under the framework, the agencies also signed an Implementing Arrangement to formalize cooperation in the exploration of Mars.  The arrangement establishes a joint steering group to guide discussions about potential future projects that contribute to the exploration of Mars. There was also a human spaceflight agreement signed by NASA and UAESA leadership in October 2018, further deepening bilateral cooperation. 

Additionally, the two agencies plan to collaborate on education and public outreach programs and joint workshops, with the goal of facilitating the exchange of scientific data, scientists, engineers, and views and experiences on relevant regulatory frameworks and standards.  The UAE plans to send an astronaut to the International Space Station in September 2019. 
Future areas of collaboration could include the joint use of aircraft; scientific instruments aboard spacecraft; ground-based research facilities; spacecraft and space research platforms; and ground-based antennas for tracking, telemetry, and data acquisition.

Other Partnerships 
Sir Richard Branson has been in partnership with Abu Dhabi investors since 2009, when Aabar Investments, the Abu Dhabi government-backed investment company, took a stake in Virgin Galactic, his space venture.  According Branson, Aabar has a 35 percent stake in the business, valued at about $300 million.  In 2014, Branson and Abu Dhabi investors had initiated discussions regarding the possible opening of a spaceport in Abu Dhabi.  In the interim, UAE officials have indicated this project will help the emirate develop its nascent space sector. 

According to the UAE newspaper The National, the UAESA and Boeing have partnered on an initiative called “The National Space Programme”.  The program features two competitions:  Genes in Space, in which students from across the UAE will compete for the opportunity to have their experiments launched into space and conducted by scientists on board the International Space Station; and the Satellite Launch project.


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United Arab Emirates Aerospace and Defense Trade Development and Promotion