x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's majlis hears space tale

Yahsat's journey to outer space was one of overcoming challenges.

Jassem Al Zaabi, chairman of the Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, second right, presents a Ramadan lecture titled
Jassem Al Zaabi, chairman of the Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, second right, presents a Ramadan lecture titled "Yahsat - UAE's Journey into Space", at Al Bateen Palace this week. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI // The tale of Yahsat's journey to outer space was told to an audience at the Crown Prince's majlis on Monday.
Jassem Al Zaabi, director general of the National Electronic Security Authority and chairman of Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, spoke of the Yahsat project, from how it began to the day it was launched.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was joined by several officials from the Ministry of Interior and other ministries.
"Why launch a satellite?" Mr Al Zaabi asked. "First for strategic purposes, for communication and support to infrastructure, and for commercial reasons, to enter the international market."
He explained to the majlis attendees that there were three types of satellites: the low earth orbit (Leo), middle earth orbit (Meo), and geostationary satellites (Geo), set to orbit 36,000 kilometres from the Earth's atmosphere.
Yahsat launched a Geo satellite.
Despite the challenges they knew they would face, they set out to realise a mission given to them by the Crown Prince himself.
The first roadblock hit them at the very start of their journey.
"The biggest challenge was not the satellite design, but one all new satellite companies have - to find space to put the satellite in," he said. "Just like using phones and finding networks."
It took them about six years and discussions with 50 countries to secure a site in space for Yahsat. It is currently at 52.5 degrees east.
The company spent three years building the satellite and six months testing it. They tried to "break" it, to ensure it would survive the launch. The first launch attempt failed.
"For the first half an hour, we had no idea the effect it would have on it," Mr Al Zaabi said. "After three weeks, the second launch was perfect."
A second satellite was launched on April 21, 2011, without any problems.
"In six years we turned the idea to reality," he said, encouraging those on missions or working on projects not to despair when faced with challenges.
At Yahsat, 54 per cent of employees are Emirati.
 
osalem@thenational.ae