DUBAI // More than a year before the emirate launches its second satellite into space, officials have announced any future satellites will be built entirely in the UAE.
DubaiSat-2 is not scheduled to launch until the end of next year, but scientists at the Emirates Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (Eiast) have already entered the planning stages for DubaiSat-3.
That satellite, scheduled to be shot into orbit in 2015, will be built by Emiratis entirely on home soil.
The launch would mark the culmination of training for 22 Emirati engineers who have been based in South Korea since 2005, working on DubaiSat-1 and 2.
"Our engineers have been working for a long time on different satellites," said Salem Al Marri, the project manager of the space programme at Eiast.
"Every time our participation has increased. Now it's time for us to build our own satellites and utilise the manpower that we have."
Mr Al Marri said building the satellite, the latest of which weighs 300 kilograms, would require only a large room and a crane to lift the machine.
But a testing facility, which vigorously shakes a flight model of the satellite to simulate launch conditions, would be needed and could cost about US$10 million (Dh36.7m).
Mr Al Marri said Eiast would initially look overseas for help during that stage of development.
"These facilities are huge and they're the same things you would use to test cars or aeroplane parts," he said.
"If you have big industries in your country, then it's usually feasible to develop them.
"In the UAE, this is a long-term plan. Until we develop those facilities, we'd have to go abroad and use those facilities in other countries."
DubaiSat-1 was launched in 2009 from a Soviet-era military base in Kazakhstan. It cost $50m and took four years of work by Emirati engineers and those from the South Korean company Satrec1.
The first satellite was based on a generic design and had a resolution of 2.5 metres per pixel. DubaiSat-2 has a resolution of 1 metre, making it able to pinpoint cars on streets or read logos on the side of aeroplanes parked on a runway.
It will also travel faster than DubaiSat-1, covering 17,000 square metres a day rather than 12,000 metres.
The design of the satellite is unique and is the intellectual property of Eiast and Satrec1.
The higher resolution was at the request of government agencies who say the images could be used in town planning.
Mr Al Marri said it had not yet been determined what upgrades DubaiSat-3 would have.
"There will be an improvement, but not necessarily in terms of resolution," he said. "It could mean that we can store and download more images per day, with the same resolution.
"Or it could mean that we could generate and store more power so the satellite lasts longer in space."
The investment in satellite technology is part of an effort by the Government to diversify the economy away from oil.
The Government holds a large stake in Virgin Galactic, the commercial space flight firm, and this year Yahsat, the country's first communications satellite, entered orbit.
Pioneering satellite technologies can be costly and time-consuming, as it requires additional testing to ensure the new components are spaceworthy.
But Mr Al Marri said Eiast was not entirely a commercial venture. He said one of its ambitions was to establish the Emirates as a leader in the field.
"We want to keep advancing," he said. "Our goal is to put the UAE at the forefront of these advanced technologies."