ABU DHABI // Launching tourists into outer space from the Gulf is among the topics under discussion at an international conference that starts today, where experts will weigh the benefits and costs of building a space industry.
Space is a hot topic in a country with investments ranging from satellite telecommunications and image sensing to space tourism.
Industry leaders at the Global Space and Satellite Forum will examine the use of satellites for everything from television broadcasting to earth observation and national security. The three-day event begins today at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec).
The conference comes just weeks after the launch of Yahsat's first commercial satellite, part of a Dh4.4 billion investment. Officials said yesterday that the satellite has reached its mark in orbit about 36,000km above Earth.
Yahsat, or Al Yah Satellite Communications, is owned by Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company controlled by the Abu Dhabi Government.
In the race to lead the region's space industry, the country has invested in other local satellite technology and holds a large stake in Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial space flight firm.
This week's forum will also look closely at the use of satellites for disaster recovery after the Japan's recent tsunami and nuclear crisis.
Arab countries will need to decide whether it is cost-effective to have their satellite technology built and launched locally rather than abroad, or if it is "viable to build a space industry in terms of technology", said Dr Omar al Emam, the space technology adviser for the Arab Science and Technology Foundation.